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Monday, March 31, 2014

Ever Feel Bad for God?

Ever feel bad for God? I do. I feel bad for God when He is displayed as something less than He truly is.

Take, for instance, those who call themselves "Christians" and then engage in all kinds of obviously evil behavior. We have had to deal with this for centuries, from the Crusades to the Inquisitions to the Salem witch trials. Now it's the Westboro Baptist types or TV evangelists. Now it's false prophets telling everyone they should be healthy and wealthy or surrender any real Christianity in favor of "the social gospel". Now it's us, every time we sin. We bring dishonor to the Name of our Savior and portray to the world a false picture of God.

There are those who argue that baptism is required for salvation. Dig into this for a few minutes, and you will discover that they are speaking of a specific baptism. It must be "full immersion" and/or it must be "in the Name of Jesus" … or not. It must be by particular people, to particular people, done a particular way with particular words. And I weep for God. For centuries no one practiced "that particular way", and God failed to obtain the salvation of anyone. He tried, but just couldn't get anyone to listen. Sure, they responded to His call, confessed their sin, repented, and placed their faith in Christ, but they didn't know about "that particular way", so they ended up damned, and God failed again. I weep for Him.

There are those who argue that our task is evangelism and they like to use this kind of reasoning to urge you forward: "If you don't reach them for Christ, who will?" And I weep for God. He would like to reach people. He would like to save as many as is humanly possible. But we have severely limited Him by not reaching the people He intends us to reach. He has failed, again.

There are those that bemoan the tragedies of September 11 and the like. Atrocities of evil people as well as "acts of God" are all assigned to someone else. God didn't do it. He doesn't allow evil. He can't even be in the presence of sin. So He wanders about, trying to find someplace where He can be, and wrings His hands over all the evils, both moral and temporal, that befall His beloved world and His beloved children. If only He could do something about it, but, alas, evil reigns and He can only intervene at times to try to pull things out. I feel bad for God.

Now, try suggesting otherwise. Offer, for instance, that God is sovereign. That would mean that Man's "free will" is limited by God's sovereign will. Unacceptable. That would mean that God allowed, even ordained, the events of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, that poor woman's miscarriage, or whatever other tragedy you might imagine. Inconceivable. That would require that those who misrepresent Christianity are not Christians at all, but deceivers – wolves in Christian clothing. Not likely. And that would mean that, regardless of whether you're baptized or I go to the mission field, God is able to save every single person He intends to save. Unthinkable.

Poor God. He'd like to be sovereign, but His creation has managed to take over.

Or should I simply be feeling bad for those who suffer from such an anemic God?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Worthy is the Lamb

Obviously I don't know, but I just have a feeling that we'll be singing this in heaven at some point or another. Maybe not this tune (although I do think it is a suitable tune) but ...
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev 5:11-14)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In a Strange Land

We live in a strange world. We live in a world that argues "born that way" requires "perfectly good" unless, of course, it's something of which they disapprove. If you're "born as a homosexual", it isn't merely acceptable, it is good, but if you're born with a deformity, it is something to be corrected and if you're born with Down's Syndrome, it's something to be terminated. We live in a world that argues that science ought to rule even though the scientific method is by definition a process of inquiry, measuring, correcting and further inquiry, not certainty. And even when they argue that science ought to rule, they ignore the irrationality of "There is no God because science proves it" or, on the other hand, the science of "A baby in the womb is scientifically a human being" and "There is no scientific proof that people are 'born that way'." We live in a world where people will defend both "It is not immoral to abort a pregnancy" and "It is murder to kill a child in the womb." When we argue, "If you change the definition of marriage to include same-sex, you open the door to include polygamy, polyamory, and more", they cry, "Foul! Slippery slope argument!", even though these are actually showing up in court cases, but they argue, "You can't allow a business owner the free exercise of religion because it might allow them to forbid child health care or inoculations" even though no one has suggested such a thing and it's not a slippery slope argument.

Consider this little tidbit. The ACLU -- the American Civil Liberties Union -- has filed a brief against the civil liberties of Hobby Lobby President Steve Green and associates to require them to provide contraceptives for their employees against their religious beliefs. And the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has also filed against Hobby Lobby because granting them their First Amendment rights is tantamount to an establishment of religion. This is "good thinking" these days. Defend civil liberties by removing them and argue that defending religious freedom establishes a State religion.

It's not only "them". It's us. Just as an example, take the latest "good for our side" movie, God's Not Dead. Christians are raving about it. The Christian Film Database raves, "An overwhelmingly, powerful, thought provoking film. We wish everyone in the world would go see this film." Check your Facebook for the reviews of other Christians who have seen it and loved it. Still, even The Hollywood Reporter notices "it sometimes stacks the deck shamelessly in defense of its credo." So why is it that no one seems to notice that it's a poorly structured set of arguments played against a poorly stereotyped set of opponents? In the movie, the main character is a Christian required to engage in a "contest" with a virulent atheist professor in order to get a passing grade. So he has to prove the existence of God in three lectures and convince the class. The necessary biblical fact that humans are not convinced in favor of God based on argument, but by the Spirit, is ignored and the disappointingly weak arguments are passed off as compelling. The movie argues from the Big Bang and from theistic evolution for the existence of God rather than for any biblical version of God. This character's arguments have been often and skillfully refuted by skeptics while many much more reasonable and sound arguments are available, but Christians are delighted that the film argued for God even if it simply set up a soft pitch to a skeptical world ready to knock it out of the park.

We live in a strange world indeed. We suffer from debased minds (Rom 1:28) and deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9), but we don't seem to notice. We are commanded to love God with all our minds (Matt 22:37) and to avoid being conformed to this world by renewing our minds (Rom 12:2). So this battle for the mind continues and we don't often seem to take this into account because, well, we live in a strange world.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why It Matters

I know, we Christians talk a lot about homosexual sin and abortion. And Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason does a good job explaining one key aspect of why we talk so much about these things instead of just the Gospel. (It's short; you can spare 3 minutes.) But I recently ran across another reason why it matters.

In reviewing information about the Hobby Lobby case I read this on the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
FFRF notes that its original founders, Anne Nicol Gaylor and Annie Laurie Gaylor, formed FFRF "partly in response to unwarranted governmental and religious intrusion into a woman’s reproductive health decisions."
Do you see that? The original founders of an organization dedicated to promoting nontheism by legal force -- to removing Christianity from the public arena -- formed the organization "in response to unwarranted governmental and religious intrusion into a woman’s reproductive health decisions." Now, I'm sure you can all read that code, right? Because there is the claim that abortion is murder, these women formed an organization to block Christianity from the public.

Now, it is true that the world naturally hates Christ and His followers (John 15:18, 24). It is true that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (Rom 8:7). But Jesus's message to sinners, along with "Follow Me", was "Go and sin no more" and if we don't get across the dangers of rebellion against the Creator along with the answer to that problem, then we're not doing our jobs right. If all they hear is moralism, we're not doing our jobs right. If we're preaching good works without the necessary repentance that drives them, we're not doing our jobs right. Perhaps we're not giving a good "reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). Perhaps we need to check our motives. Is it righteous indignation or love? We aren't going to argue them into the kingdom, but we should avoid pushing them out with legalism. Sin matters because we have the answer to that problem. We need to keep both in mind.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Parachurch Organizations

I'm sure you've all heard by now of World Vision USA's announcement that they're discarding Jesus's teaching on the definition of marriage (Matt 19:4-6) and tossing out Paul's warning that those who engage in homosexual practices have no part in the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10) in favor of ... "unity". And I'm pretty sure that you've been able to find plenty of commentary from good people making valid observations on the extent of such a failure. I don't need to add my two cents worth. And the fact that they reversed their decision is good. But I still have something to consider.

The term that catches my eye is connected to World Vision's self-defense that "We're an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church." We have a popular term for this. It is "parachurch". World Vision (and so many others) is not a church organization. IT is a parachurch organization. Just what is that?

A parachurch organization is a Christian organization (I know of no other religious group that has these organizations) that engages in social welfare and evangelism without restricting itself to a specific religious denomination. The word comes with the prefix, "para", meaning "beside". We see it in "paradox", "paramedic", and even "parallel" and "paragraph". A "paralegal" is someone who is not a lawyer, but works alongside lawyers doing some of their work for them. And there you have the concept. A parachurch organization is not a part of a church, but aims at working alongside churches to assist them in doing some of their work. All well and good. Until you dig a little deeper.

Dig a little deeper and you find that there is no such thing as a "parachurch organization" in the New Testament. You were either in the church or out. You were either responsible to the leadership of the church or you were not. Churches, prescribed by God, were designed for a specific purpose (build saints -- Matt 28:19-20; Eph 4:11-14) with a specific structure (elders and deacons -- 1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4) which keeps the "train on the tracks" so to speak. There are biblical controls, a biblical authority structure, and biblical checks and balances. "The work of the church" is commissioned and controlled by the biblical church. As the most obvious biblical example I can think of, look at Paul. Sent by God and the church, Paul took the Gospel to the Gentiles through Asia and Europe. We all think of him as a "super Christian", but Paul was never out from under the authority of the Apostles. That's the idea. That's the problem.

It would seem to me that the very nature of the "parachurch organization" -- "not restricted to any church" -- would stand in defiance of the biblical model. Independent of church oversight, they make ready targets for Satan to invade and overthrow. Independent of church authority, they are free to call themselves "Christian" while discarding Christianity, giving the world reasons to blaspheme God. Away from the watchful eye of elders and deacons called by God to their task and monitoring each other to do it, they easily fall into a more business-type model, lose sight of their original vision, and toss out the very structures, standards, and underpinnings that caused them to exist at all.

It is true that churches -- individual gatherings of believers -- are often too small to accomplish some very large tasks. Working together is a viable approach, where their efforts are still under the authority of biblical churches. Indeed, Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35), not "if you all share the same denomination." Churches working together for common tasks like evangelism and such is a good thing. I would suggest, however, that World Vision's initial defection from the truth of Scripture is good anecdotal evidence that the parachurch organization is a potentially dangerous and unbiblical thing for which Scripture has suitable substitutes. And can it be truly said that a parachurch organization is a parachurch organization if it discards the church and its teachings in order to "stand alongside" the church to accomplish her tasks? Perhaps we might want to revisit the idea of "parachurch".

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What to Expect from Noah

Christians like to try to find good movies that can get out a decent message about a biblical theme. We don't find them very often and even more rarely agree that they are "a decent message about a biblical theme." Too often we evaluate before having seen them because, after all, we would like to spare our brothers and sisters a bad movie if we can.

Enter Noah, a new movie coming out shortly that is supposed to give us just such a decent message about a biblical theme. Now, obviously I haven't seen it (because it doesn't come out until the end of this week), but I thought I'd point out a helpful review from someone who has and who doesn't have a Christian axe to grind. That is, the review won't be tainted by your favorite Christian bent. This is a review from a secular source.

Todd McCarthy offers his persepctive on "Darren Aronofsky's Bible-based epic." Now, come on! Doesn't "Bible-based epic" sound good? He points out that the story of Noah is embraced by most of the world's major religions, something that strikes me as interesting in itself. But he also admits that all "will find plenty to fulminate about here." That's a little ominous.

The movie, as expected, has "numerous dramatic fabrications". Well, of course it would. I don't think you can make a biblical movie without them. But the message that keeps getting repeated over and over again is that it is full of "heavy-handed ecological doomsday messages." In fact, his "Bottom Line" review says, "Before Paul Ehrlich and Al Gore, there was Noah." And immediately the "Bible-based epic" begins to slip from any biblical basis.

The story removes God from Genesis 1:1 and replaces Him with "In the beginning there was nothing." Noah doesn't get instructions from God but from hallucinations. And this particular "God" is fallible, realizing He made a mistake in making Man and has to do a "do-over". So God will destroy the world because "It's men who broke the world."

Well, what do you expect? Noah creates a problem between Ham and his father because Ham fears he would never know a woman because in this version only one of the three sons had a wife even though the Bible clearly states "Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark" (Gen 7:13). God is deleted. The theme is not sin, but ecological judgment. It's just the kind of thing you would expect from Hollywood.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I'm just suggesting that you don't anticipate an opportunity to share the Gospel with friends over this one. If you're interested in entertainment, it's certainly your call whether or not this will entertain you. I'm just suggesting that you don't look for a decent message about a biblical theme here because you just won't likely find it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Infant Baptism

Yeah, yeah, I know, not too many are reading my stuff that care about the topic of Paedobaptism. But I've seen this argument and I've seen it recently and I'm just not able to keep my mouth shut.

In the debate between whether or not we should baptize infants ("paedobaptism") or just believers ("believer's baptism"), the Infant-Baptism-types will often refer to this Scripture:
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself" (Act 2:38-39).
"Well," they say, "there you have it. The promise is for you and your children. So children should be baptized for the forgiveness of sins."

I'm wondering just how this argument can keep going like this. It seems to me that it requires an intentional avoidance of the clear and present text.

Here, let's look at it carefully. There is certainly a promise "for you and your children". What is that promise? "Forgiveness of your sins and ... the gift of the Holy Spirit." Good! Wonderful promise! We all want that! But note that the promise is conditional. (Everyone agrees on that.) There is something you must do to receive the promise. And that "something" is not "be baptized". No. It is "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ."

So, if we stop and say, "See? Children should be baptized because the promise is for them, too", we must also say, "Children must repent" because that is another key component, is it not? Even in the passage where Peter writes, "Baptism now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21) he specifies, "not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience." Baptism without an appeal to God for a good conscience is nothing more than removal of dirt from the body. Baptism without repentance does not alone qualify for forgiveness or the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, in the final examination, we also must recognize that Peter put another key designator in his sermon in Acts 2. He said that the promise wasn't merely to those who repent or those who are baptized, but to "everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself." We don't get to decide who that is. We don't get to decide for our children. We don't get to decide for ourselves. It begins with God calling some to Himself and those will repent and be baptized.

It is, after all, what the text says. As such, I have to say I'm in favor of baptizing any infant who repents. Beyond that, I'm not willing to say.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Roaring Lion

Have you ever seen the TV series, Bones? It is based on books written by an actual forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs (who based the main character on herself). The main character, Temperance Brennan, is nicknamed "Bones" because she (and her crew) examines bones to determine what happened to the person. Fine. The show portrays Dr. Brennan as "the smartest person in the world" by her own estimation and, most often, by those around her. Her husband (whom she met, worked with, and eventually married in the course of the show) is an FBI agent and a Catholic, something they bring out often in the series. Why? Because the smartest person in the world, of course, is a "logical atheist". She has examined all the evidence (which is, after all, what she does) and considered all the facts and has concluded that the evidence shows there is no God.

I am often reminded that television is fiction. I have to tell myself when a character does something totally stupid, "He didn't do it because it was real; he did it because the writers wrote it that way." Writers determine what will happen, not reality. Indeed, in most "reality shows", writers determine what is "real". Thus, it is those behind the show, not the characters on the show, who are pulling the strings and making the statements. And the writers of Bones have an axe to grind.

The topic comes up often -- almost weekly. As an example, in a recent episode the religious husband wanted to talk his atheist wife into taking their daughter to church. "Why would we want to expose her to lies like that?" was the gist of Brennan's objection. He was stumped. Because, of course, her sheer logical approach overwhelmed his "warm feelings" toward God. Later, he tried a rational approach. "You know," he said, "studies have shown that there are health benefits to attending church." She parried, "So, are you going to teach her about the evils of the Crusades and the Inquisitions as well?" Ooh, shot down again. Because she was so much smarter than he was. The message was clear. Any intelligent person would know that God is a myth and the history offered by "unbiased" sources on the subject prove it.

What is absolutely essential here is that the viewer does not actually engage the brain. The "smart" character, Brennan, argues often in crime investigations, "We must follow the evidence and not jump to conclusions!", but she never offers any evidence of her conclusion that there is no God. Don't think about that. The facts that 1) the Crusades are horribly misrepresented by most in public discussions, 2) a person or group of people who follow a course of action opposed to biblical Christianity cannot rightly be used as an example of Christianity, and 3) no evidence is offered in support of the anti-theist position will be a problem if you think about it too much.

Now, I'm not offering a review of a TV show. That's not my purpose here. What I'm trying to do is make you aware of a strategy. Note the approach. 1) Diminish the perceived character of the one who holds an opposing viewpoint. 2) Elevate the perceived character of the one who holds the viewpoint you're supporting. 3) Hold up to ridicule (not examination) the point of view that disagrees with yours. 4) Do not at any point actually examine the evidence, logic, facts, or reasoning. You will see this strategy with some regularity. It was, in fact, Satan's original approach in the Garden. We live in a world hostile to God (Rom 8:7). Don't expect otherwise. And don't get fooled by irrational assaults.

(P.S. See if you can figure out the meaning of the title of this piece.)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Just a Matter of Time

We have in a couple of biblical passages some really sticky promises related to prayer. Take, for instance, the promise "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:14). Let's see ... the conditions: "Ask anything in My name", and the promise: "I will do it." Simple, right? And yet we ask things all the time in His name and we don't see it happening. Or take James's, "Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him" (James 5:14-15). Let's see here. Conditions? "The prayer offered in faith." Oh sure, there's the whole "call for the elders" and "anointing him with oil" and all that. But look at the promise! This "will restore the one who is sick"! Wow! So that seems pretty clear cut. Why don't we see it very often?

We know that "faith" is not the answer. You know, "the prayer answered in faith" is the catch, right? No. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. There can be no doubt that Jesus prayed in faith. But the cup did not pass from Him. It's not a faith problem. I mean, it might be (James 1:6-7), but that's not the final answer, despite the many who would try to make it so. And it is always wise to lay Scripture against Scripture, so we also read, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you" (John 15:7). Abiding in Him, then, is critical, but that just throws in another of those sticky promises, doesn't it? And there is always the very issue that Jesus named in His garden prayer: "not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). So everything has to go through the will of God to be accomplished. I mean, it doesn't follow that we can force God into doing things against His will by asking in Jesus's name or calling elders and anointing with oil and asking in faith or abiding in Him, does it? So there's that.

But we're still stuck. Surely there are prayers we ask in Jesus's name, meeting all the criteria, that are obviously the will of God and we don't get them. I know I have. Haven't you? So what can we conclude? Well, there are a few possibilities. The skeptic would offer, "See? God is a liar and, therefore, nonexistent." We'll throw that out at the start. The next obvious response is that we're just not meeting the requirements. We lack faith or we're not abiding in Him or we're not asking according to His will ... even when we're certain of all of these things. That makes the promise of answered prayer pointless, doesn't it? That would mean, "Well, sure, I'll always give you what you ask when you meet these requirements ... but you'll never know when you do. Don't bother trying."

I would like to suggest a third possibility. I notice in none of these promises a time reference. I see, "I will do it" but I don't see when. I see it "will restore the one who is sick", but I don't see when. I see that God promises to answer prayers in many places, but I don't see when. Could it be that God fulfills His promise to answer prayers prayed under the proper conditions when He chooses to and not on our schedule? If, for instance, the prayer offered in faith results in the death of the loved one who was prayed for, are they not then restored to perfect health? I mean, "new body" is about as good as it gets, isn't it? We can pray with absolute certainty "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" because Jesus commanded us to and be absolutely sure that it will happen, even if it doesn't meet our time restrictions.

I believe the promises of answered prayer. I think we often place an unnecessary restriction on God when we not only ask for His will, but demand when He will fulfill it. I mean, after all, isn't "when" also a matter of His will? So if you are sure you've prayed in faith and prayed in His name and prayed for His will and you don't see answers yet, be assured. He will do it. It is a certainty. It's just a matter of time. And, like the hymn says, He "doeth all things well."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What Seems to be the Problem?

This is not news. The president's approval rating is low. The president is doing stupid things. Scandalous things. Things that many wonder how in the world he gets away with. There is no shortage of websites that give lists of Obama scandals. I even did it. So, what seems to be the problem?

If you think that I just missed the point, you would be mistaken. President Obama is not the problem. President Obama is the symptom. Why? Because as bad as he may be, the problem is actually elsewhere. You see, in 2012, after 4 years of President Obama, more than 50% of American voters voted to reelect him. These didn't have the excuse of "We didn't know what he would do." He was doing it. Thus, the popular vote was in favor of the president's policies. What seems to be the problem? Not the president; the people.

We are a republic. A republic is a political system where the people elect representatives. Get that? Representatives. People that ... represent us. We vote into office people we believe will best represent our concerns. That's the way it works. So while we may complain about the president we have, he is not the problem. He is simply a representation of the people who elected him. When a majority of people share his views, the problem is clearly not him. We have met the enemy and he is us.

America is in trouble. We're in economic trouble and moral trouble. We're fighting in places we're not wanted. We're not wanted in most places. We have a shortage of energy, a shortage of justice, a shortage of compassion, a shortage of common sense. "The right man" or "better legislators" or even "a good judiciary" is not going to solve this problem. America needs Christ. Let's be careful about where we lay the blame and be sure to go about our assigned task of making disciples.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Wrong Love

Here are two well-known pieces of Scripture.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Gen 3:6).

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world -- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life -- is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).
The first comes from the end of Satan's tempting of Eve in the garden. He had questioned Eve, questioned God, and then contradicted God. "You will not surely die." Instead, he assured her that God was just being mean and if she would only do the only thing God had told her not to do, she'd be much better off. Genesis 3:6 is her response.

Far down the track of time, then, John writes his warning. Don't love the world or the things in the world. Don't do it. Why? Well, first, if you love the world, you don't love the Father. Plain and simple. You can't serve two masters. But John doesn't leave it at that. He explains what "the world" means in this context. The world is a function of human desires. They are the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life -- the desires that focus on "self". Don't love that. If you do, you don't love God. Don't tell God you love Him and not give Him your love.

There is, in these two passages, a parallel. Eve saw that the tree was good for food -- "lust of the flesh" -- and it was a delight to the eyes -- "lust of the eyes" -- and was to be desired to make one wise -- "pride of life". In one swift, single sentence Eve fulfilled every function of the world that John warns against. And I'm pretty sure, given these common and easily encountered concepts, that we can do them ourselves, even with some frequency.

We probably don't need to expand on these three, but I will anyway. "Desires of the flesh" is not merely a reference to sexual immorality; it is a reference to all bodily desires. That would include all the "works of the flesh" (Gal 5:19-21). Check out that list1. We know what "desires of the eyes" is. Our society lives there. It's part of the "body image" problem for women in particular and for men as well. It's the lure of pornography. Adultery occurs first as a desire of the eyes (Matt 5:28). It is "keeping up with the Joneses". It is built on covetousness (Exo 20:17; Luke 12:15; Col 3:5). It is the "never enough" syndrome. And "the pride of life" is easy as well. We all long for applause, for recognition, for attention. We all tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom 12:3) even when we think we're thinking too lowly of ourselves. It is ambition in this world for temporal things and power and position and glory. These are not of the Father.

John tells a key problem with engaging in the desires of the world over the love of the Father. (You'd think that would be obvious, wouldn't you? But I think John's reminder is important.) These things -- the desires of the world, the things we are not to love -- are temporary. They are passing away. They are short-lived. What we are exchanging when we feed our sensual desires or our visual appetites or our pride is a short-term pleasure for an eternal one. Why would we do that? How does that make any sense?

It doesn't.

We still do it.

1 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Works or Not?

In comments under The Sensual Prophet I told a reader, "'Be godly' is the effect of Election, not the condition." He seemed to think there was a contradiction there.

And then I read this in my Bible readings.
And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says "I know Him" but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked" (1 John 2:3-6).
First, note the explicit teaching. Those who know Christ will obey Christ. Those who claim to know Him but make no effort to emulate Him are liars who do not have the truth and do not know Christ. Yes, yes, I know, sounds judgmental, but I'm just telling you what John said here. So John was saying what I said. Those who belong to Christ ("the Elect") end up being godly; they are not godly in order to belong to Christ. In John's terms, "know Him" precedes "keep His commandments".

Second, notice the problem. Well, apparent problem. Now, we know that we don't earn salvation. We know that we are saved by faith apart from works lest any man should boast (Eph 2:8-9). We're all really clear on this. There can be no doubt, and any time someone pops his head up and says, "You need to work to be saved", we can easily throw this and other passages at him and shut him up. No room for boasting. Works are not involved. And yet, John says here that works are involved. Now wait! Don't we have a contradiction?

It's not just John. James says, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). Thanks, James. You can sit down now. Not helping. But rest easy. Even Paul follows up his famous "saved through faith not by works" statement with "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). Works that God prepared beforehand. Interesting. So we are not saved by works, but we are not saved apart from works.

This seems like a contradiction, but it isn't. This is because the New Testament regards the works of the believer as a result of salvation, not a cause. Works are, in fact, an unavoidable outcome of salvation. So we work out our salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is at work in us giving us the will and ability to do so (Phil 2:12-13). We have works because we have faith (James 2:22).

We walk a thin line here. We hold that we are saved sola fide -- by faith alone. That is, we are saved apart from works. God doesn't choose us or save us because we merit anything based on our present or foreseen works. We are saved based on the merit of Christ. We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone. All believers have God's seed abiding in them (1 John 3:9) and, with that, cannot make a practice of sin. We are "born again" to new life, new creatures whose new nature operates with the Spirit to incline us to obedience rather than revolt. We will continue to lack perfection until we end this life, but we won't like it. And that is how we are saved apart from works but not apart from works. Works don't save, but they do matter. And godliness is indeed something to pursue.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

About the Gifts

There has been much debate lately on the topic of spiritual gifts. (Seriously, just Google "strange fire debate" and you'll get an ear full.) One side says the miraculous or "sign gifts" have ceased and the other says, "Uh, uh!" We're all pretty sure that we know what "speaking in tongues" means ... and we're all pretty sure that very few others are sure. Everyone is interested in that whole "healing" thing because, well, it's really cool ... and most of us have never seen it. Lots and lots of disagreement on the topic. So, what do we know? As it turns out, the things we know might end up casting some light on the things of which we aren't sure.

We know that there is more than one gift. That's easy. We have three lists in the Bible (Rom 12:1-9; 1 Cor 12:8-10; Eph 4:11) and they all differ. (Oddly, despite all the lists, no matter where I turn I can certainly find someone who will tell me "I have the gift of gab" and no such gift shows up on any list.) So there are lots of spiritual gifts. (See what I did there? I stopped short of discussing individual ones because that is where we start disagreeing, and I'm just looking for what we know.)

We know that these gifts are given by the Spirit. How? "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7). Pretty clear. And after the 1 Cor 12 list we read, "All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills" (1 Cor 12:11). Pretty obvious, then. But notice a couple other related facts. First, they are given by the Spirit "to each." "I don't know," some have told me, "I don't think I have a gift." No, that's not possible. The Spirit gives to each. And the other end of the sentence is equally important: "for the common good." Now, that's a little unusual, isn't it? I mean, we often think of tongues, for instance, as a "prayer language", some sort of private blessing that just sweetens my walk with Jesus. But this is quite clear. The gifts given by the Spirit are not for private use; they are for the common good. Finally, notice who decides what gift you or I will get. It says, "as He wills." Not as I will. Not your request. Paul encourages us to "earnestly desire the spiritual gifts" (1 Cor 14:1), but never forget that spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit's will. (I was once told by one fellow that he could get me the gift of tongues. Kind of puts a hold on that idea, doesn't it?)

One more thing we know. We are commanded to put spiritual gifts to work. "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Peter 4:10). Now, that's clearly in line with Paul's "for the common good", but we seem to almost entirely miss this command. You have a gift; use it.

There is a lot of debate beyond this. What remains? What doesn't? What is real? What isn't? Much discussion and not a whole lot of resolution, even among friends. But there is one more thing of which we can be assured. the whole point is "that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:11). Perhaps if we start there and work our way through the explicit, the rest will come a little easier. There are lots of gifts. Everyone has at least one. Gifts are given by the Spirit according to His will. You are commanded to exercise your gift(s) for the benefit of everyone. Now, before we seek to solve the rest of the questions, let's get to work on that, okay?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Have you ever noticed how little "other" plays into our thinking over "self"? It seems as if all of life is aimed at "self" rather than anyone else.

Take sex, for instance. Today we've pretty much dismissed the notion that there is anything wrong with, say, masturbation because no one but "self" is involved and it simply provides personal pleasure. Beyond explicitly personal pleasure, we tend to think of all of sex in terms of personal pleasure. Maybe it's "I'm not in the mood" (self) or maybe it's "You're not satisfying my needs" (self). Even the "enlightened" ones might say, "I get the most pleasure out of sex when you are most satisfied" (which, if you note, begins with "I get the most pleasure" -- self). If you try to suggest anything else here, you're crazy. "Maybe wives should give themselves to their husbands regardless of their personal moods." "Sexist!" "Maybe you ought to consider your wife's feelings and indulge her preferences rather than your own." "Lunatic!" Always, "I should be able to get satisfaction in the bedroom!" Self.

Take marriage, for instance. We meet, pursue, marry, and relate to our spouses primarily with self in mind. "Will she/he make me happy?" "Does he/she have the attributes I most appreciate?" "Is my husband/wife meeting my needs/desires/wishes?" We want to know if they are fulfilling us, meeting our expectations, satisfying us, with almost no thought to the reverse. "Of course I'm a good husband/wife. That's not the question here." Self.

Take work, as an example. What everyone wants is a job that makes them feel satisfied, a job they enjoy, a job that recognizes their talents and skills, a job that is fulfilling. Can you possibly miss the utter "self" in all of that? Does anyone think, "Does my vocation provide for others, give to others, fulfill others, meet others' needs?" Self.

Even church is out there. What the vast majority are looking for is satisfation. "I go to the church I go to because it makes me feel ____" and we'll tell how it makes us feel good or "because they bless me" or even "because they're in line with my views." Has anyone said, "I go to that church because it provides so many opportunities to serve others"? That is not "self" thinking. We typically approach church for what it can give me rather than what I can provide. Self.

In fact, I'm not at all sure there isn't an aspect of life in which this doesn't occur. Even among Christians. Oddly enough, it is precisely the opposite focus of the Bible.

On the question of sexual relations, biblically, sex is reserved for marriage and marriage alone. In that context, Paul says, "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another..." (1 Cor 7:3-5). Not self. Biblically, sex is for reasons other than self-gratification. Is masturbation wrong? I'd suggest that if it feeds your self-centered desires for self-serving pleasure, it can't be good or wise, can it?

On the question of marriage, God made woman as a "helpmeet" (Gen 2:18), a suitable helper. Husbands, then, were not commanded to satisfy their self-interests, but to love their wives, give themselves to her, and live with her in an understanding way. Wow! Nothing in any of that about "self". And wives were commanded to submit, to respect, to serve. Again, I'm not seeing "self-fulfillment", "self-satisfaction", or any of the other "self" concepts so popular today.

Church, biblically, isn't about "being fed" or "meeting felt needs". It's about "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another" (1 Peter 4:10) and "building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:12) and "make disciples of all nations" (Matt 28:19). Again, nothing in there about "self".

In general we see quite clearly Paul's command, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:3-4). Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Make that fit in a "self" context if you can1.

The sin nature is a self-centered nature. Christians understand that we are supposed to consider ourselves dead to sin (Rom 6:11), but we miss the underlying principle that our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jer 17:9) and we end up arguing in defense of things premised on self without thinking. Scripture calls us to a different focus. You'll find it in Jesus's two "Great Commandments".
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt 22:37-39).
Move on. Leave your self-interests, self-fulfillment, self-satisfaction, self-pleasure up to a divine Father who can most fully satisfy over any petty things you can do for yourself. Instead, try obedience -- an "other" center. It changes perspective, heart, mind, and your relationships both with God and with others. It's a good thing. God said so.
1 I know someone is going to try to say, "'As yourself'. See? Self. You need to first love yourself." Note that Scripture assumes self-love without effort (Eph 5:29). That is, already possessing self-love, you are to move on to giving that kind of love to others.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Sensual Prophet

You have to wonder sometimes if people claiming to be Christians bother to read their Bibles. I mean, sure, I don't expect someone who is not a believer to give attention to God's Word, but you'd think people who call themselves by the name of Christ would want to know what God says ... and follow it. Apparently a lot don't.

I can find no other explanation. I read, for instance, of the warning in 2 Peter against "false prophets" who Peter assures us will arise among us with "destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1). "Many," he says, "will follow their ..." What? Will follow their what? Their heresies? Their lead? Their misdirection? No, the text says "... their sensuality" (2 Peter 2:2). Interesting. The premise that feeds their heresies is their sensuality -- their commitment to pleasing the senses.

Peter includes greed in this sensuality (2 Peter 2:3) and promises God's just retribution, but I'm fascinated by Peter's perspective on the driving force of the false prophet (and those who follow). He says they "indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority" (2 Peter 2:10). Isn't that truly a description of so many so-called brothers today? "I'm born this way; I should be allowed to indulge my passions and you ought to celebrate it with me." "You old Christians are too narrow-minded. You need to be more up-to-date, engaging people where they live, meeting 'felt needs', helping them to feel better rather than all that 'doctrine' or 'truth' talk." "I worship God where it feels best, not with some outdated authoritarian religious structure" (you know ... the one we call the Church that was ordained by God).

"These," Peter goes on to say are "like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant" (2 Peter 2:12). Isn't that exactly what so many are doing today? Isn't this, in fact, the rally cry? "They're born that way! How can you say it's wrong?" "Creatures of instinct." And more. "They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime" (2 Peter 2:13). "They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray" (2 Peter 2:14-15). "Insatiable for sin". "Entice unsteady souls". How many can we see like this in our world every day? Peter compares them to Balaam who "loved gain from wrongdoing" (2 Peter 2:15). That is precisely the mindset. "If it feels good, do it." "Speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh" (2 Peter 2:18). And, "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved" (2 Peter 2:19). If that doesn't give you a chill both of recognition of so many voices around and of the dangers of such an approach, you might not be paying attention.

Peter promised these would appear. He describes them primarily as driven by sensual passions, living primarily for personal pleasure and personal gain, and encouraging everyone they can to follow suit. You'll find these both in the left-leaning places where they assure us that people "born that way" ought to indulge their passions and farther to the right where popular voices assure us that God wants you to be happy, wealthy, and healthy -- the same voices in different clothing. "These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm" (2 Peter 2:17). They look like they'll slake your thirst -- they'll satisfy -- but they're empty. Rest assured, "the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:9). So what you need to do is to make sure you're in the first category and not the second.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Matter of Values

An old joke talks about the simple fellow that goes to church and, when he comes home, his wife asks him what the sermon was about. "He talked about sin," he answered. "What about it?" she asks. "He's agin' it," he replies. We all know what the Bible says about hate. "You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart" (Lev 19:17). "Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions" (Prov 10:12). "The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now" (1 John 2:9). Yeah, we get it. God talks about hate; He's agin' it.

And then we read, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). Wait ... wait ... didn't we just determine that God is against hate? So why is Jesus saying this?

Perhaps we can find some enlightenment elsewhere. First, the Bible doesn't only say that God is against hate. It also says that He favors it at times. In Isa 1:14 we read that God hates "your new moon festivals" (etc.). The psalmist hates those who regard vain idols (Psa 31:6), the work of those who fall away (Psa 101:3), and every false way (Psa 119:104) (to name a few). God hates devising evil against your neighbor and perjury (Zech 8:17), divorce (Mal 2:16), and false worship (Amos 5:21). God hates. So apparently there is the proper place in God's economy for hatred.

And then we read another possible input on the subject: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matt 6:24). See the parallel? There is something a little different going on here than in our modern use of the term. This isn't a term of intense dislike; this is a valuation. It is, in fact, a comparative valuation. In Genesis 29 we read that Jacob "loved also Rachel more than Leah" (Gen 29:30). The Bible calls this "hate" (Gen 29:31). So, you see, this is a comparison of value.

Plugging that concept back into Jesus's words we find, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not value his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life less than he values Me, he cannot be My disciple." We are to value wealth less than God. Jacob placed more value on Rachel than Leah. The Bible calls it hate. Now it starts to make sense.

The question becomes a question of values. The question becomes a question of your values. What do you value more -- God or____? You'll have to fill that in yourself. Your time to yourself. Your spouse. Your personal pleasure. Your family. Your comfort. When you worship today, it is a question of values. The higher you value God, the higher the worship. Simple as that. What do you value most?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Pursuit of Truth

I doubt if many of you have met Giordano Bruno. You may have heard of him. Bruno is listed as "a martyr of science". This poor man, a Dominican friar, was put to death by the Roman Inquisition in 1600 (which is why I'm pretty sure you haven't met him) for believing in science over religion. Modern commentators see him as a brave martyr for free thought and scientific ideas. Sigh! What a hero!

Of course, what is important in this is that you never actually consider the facts of the case over the interpretation.

As it turns out, Giordano Bruno was not put on trial for his heliocentrism. Instead, the Roman Catholic Church charged him with pantheism (which is strangely not a matter of "free thought" or "modern scientific ideas"), his denial of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ, and other sundry religious views in violation of Catholic doctrine. Odd. Doesn't look like science had anything to do with it. Like the Flat Earth Myth and the whole Galileo thing, anti-Christians have concocted a false dilemma and demanded satisfaction for something that isn't true. Bruno wasn't executed on a "religion vs science" contest. He was put to death for his religious assault on the Church. So while all the anti-theists are pointing and complaining about Christianity and praising heroes like Cosmos' Neil DeGrasse Tyson, they're missing completely the fact that it's a lie.

So why do opponents of Christianity make up stories about Galileo, Bruno, or the like that aim at ridiculing and insulting God and His Church? Oh, that's easy. "Claiming to be wise, they became fools" (Rom 1:22), "for the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God" (Rom 8:7). It is, therefore, what would be expected. I suppose that's one reason we are told to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess 5:21).

Friday, March 14, 2014


"Jessa Duggar creates quite a stir with her latest comments," the headline reads. You know Jessa, right? Okay, maybe not. She is one of nine girls and ten boys in the Jim and Michelle Duggar family. These wack jobs think that the Bible provides guidance and insight into marriage and family living and live that way. So of course if a young Christian woman opens her mouth in agreement with Christian values (like keeping chaste until marriage), then it raises a stir.

Of course, that is not what raised a stir in this case. Jessa said that she is the only one of the four twenty-something sisters who is courting (not dating). She assured listeners that they "have a natural physical desire toward men" and thanked God for making them "normal". Oh, yeah. Now you can see it coming. "Normal." As in "not having physical desire toward the opposite sex and having it for the same sex is not normal." Oh, yeah, now that will cause a stir. Even when she said, "We're not telling them that's how they have to live. I think that every family has their principles, their values, the things that they live by ... and there will be some things that we don't agree with." Nope ... not good enough. Take back your "normal" or face the consequences.

Now, maybe you can help me out here. Since "normal" means "conforming to the common type" or "average" and self-identified homosexuals constitute less than 5% of the population, it is unavoidable that statistically a group constituting that small of a percentage of the whole would fall outside the classification of "normal". It's just math. Indeed, doesn't the younger generation love to ask blithely, "Why be normal?" Don't they embrace "not normal" and disdain "one of the crowd"? And, look, it wasn't the heterosexual community that decided to call themselves "straight" and the homosexuals "queer". What is this "stir" all about?

There is, in medicine, a use for the term "normal" -- "free from infection; occurring naturally" -- but I'm pretty sure that Jessa Duggar wasn't using her vast medical background (you know ... the one she doesn't have) when she used the term. Since statistically she is right and since she even said they should live as they please, I can only come to one conclusion. Those who are not in this statistical classification of "normal" and "heterosexual" understand that it's not normal -- that it is indeed queer -- and don't like to be reminded of it. That's all I can conclude. But maybe it's just because I'm normal.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Peter's Paradox

If you've read my blog lately, I think you can guess that I've been reading through Peter's epistles. It's true. So when I got to 2 Peter, I found this interesting beginning.

Peter writes this epistle to "those who have obtained a faith like ours" (2 Peter 1:1). Interesting. "Obtained". Not produced, created, made, built ... obtained. Something given.

You might protest, but we go on to read that "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire" (2 Peter 1:3-4). All kinds of good stuff in there. Notice last that the corruption in the world is because of our sinful desires. That's helpful since we see in our world that "sinful desires" are glorified as good.

But the earlier stuff in the text is even more interesting. It says that He has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Now, doesn't faith pertain to godliness? Doesn't that mean that He indeed has granted us faith? You know, like it suggests in the first verse?

And how about that fascinating "you may become partakers of the divine nature" line? Wow! Close to the edge, isn't it? But biblical, so true. Because of what God has done in us, we become partakers of His nature in some sense or another.

Now, this whole "obtained" and "granted" thing is fascinating and certainly in contradiction to the suggestions of a lot of people who argue that we produce our faith, etc., but we must not stop there. Notice that God has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness, and then Peter says, "Make every effort to supplement your faith with ..." and gives a list of things (2 Peter 1:5-7). A rather long list. A list that we are required to "make every effort" to provide.

Now, wait! Didn't he just say that He has provided us with all things that pertain to life and godliness? Don't these things pertain to life and godliness? So ... what?

Clearly, then, we have the paradox. Not a contradiction, but something that appears to contradict and does not. God provides (faith, virtue, knowledge, etc.), and we are commanded to work at it. It's the same thing Paul says when he told the Philippians to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" because "it is God who is at work in you to will and to do His good pleasure" (Phil 2:12-13). You do because He has. He has provided and you cooperate. Oh, and get this ... you do because He is working in you and you get rewarded for it!

I think our little minds will have some trouble trying to wrap themselves around God's reality. That doesn't mean that it's not real. That just means that the finite can never fully grasp the infinite. And that means that now we may see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. We're stuck in our finite world doing what we're told, not quite clear on how it works or all that it entails, but knowing that He is at work in us, has provided all that is required, and simply asks us to act on it.

Now, go and do thou likewise.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Michele Bachmann is in trouble. She claimed gays are bullies. Okay, not quite. But that's how the media is playing it. She said, "I think the thing that is getting a little tiresome, the gay community, they have so bullied the American people, and they've so intimidated politicians. The politicians fear them, so that they think they get to dictate the agenda everywhere." She was talking about Governor Brewer's veto of SB 1062.

Gay YouTube sensation Antoine Dodson sees it. "The gay community," he said, "we have went from being bullied to becoming bullies." Why would he say that? It was in response to calls to boycott Chick-fil-A after the Dan Cathy interview. Sweet Cakes By Melissa was forced to close its doors because of "militant homosexual activists." You remember that place. They were unwilling to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. End of business. Christian rapper, Mark Felder, known as Bizzle, wrote a response to Macklemore's anthem for homosexuals called "Same Love" and was treated to death threats from the LGBT community. Jon Stewart invited Dr. Daniel Heimbach onto his show to talk about the upcoming vote in North Carolina over Amendment 1 that would amend the state constitution to include a definition of marriage (man and woman). Dr. Heimbach is the Senior Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His answers in defense of the longstanding, historical definition of marriage earned him ridicule from Stewart and death threats from the gay community. Remember Elaine Huguenin, the photographer sued for not accepting a photography job for a lesbian couple's ceremony? She was branded homophobic and an anti-gay bigot, required to pay $6637.94 and is still dealing with courts.

ABC labeled Bachmann's comments "controversial". What do you suppose the Internet comments on the story look like? I'm pretty sure they aren't respectfully disagreeing. I know they haven't been on the the ones I've seen. But, hey, don't worry. We can all rest assured that there is no truth in the suggestion that the LGBT community has bullied those who voice opposing opinions. Well, at least those of us who don't get caught doing it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Those of us who like to defend the faith (it's called "Apologetics") take our cue from Peter. He told us to always be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). Indeed, that word "defense" is pros apologia (which gives us our "Apologetics" term). So we figure, "All Christians are commanded to be prepared to make a defense" and, frankly, "If you're not, you're not being obedient." Yeah, I know, sounds kind of arrogant, doesn't it? But you have to admit there is a seed of truth in there.

It is interesting, then, when you stop and examine the context of the statement. As it turns out, 1 Peter 3:15 isn't even a complete sentence. It starts with "but" and ends with a comma and is in the middle of a thought, not the primary point. So what is the primary point?

The chapter starts with the ever-unpopular "wives, be subject to your own husbands" (and, worse, "even if some do not obey the word") and meanders through "husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7). So far, no good. Okay, good, but we don't really like it much. He goes on to say that we ought to have unity, brotherly love, and humility (1 Peter 3:8). He then tells us not to repay evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9). Payback is God's job. So Peter reasons, "Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?" (1 Peter 3:13). Peter knows there is actually an answer to that question, so he says, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed" (1 Peter 3:14). Good! And then he begins the thought that carries through 1 Peter 3:15 all the way into verse 17 and beyond:
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil" (1 Peter 3:14-17).
The topic, then, is not "be prepared to make a defense", but be prepared to suffer. Be model Christians, but know that you will suffer for righteousness' sake. Have a good conscience and be prepared. "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18). Expect it.

How, then, are we supposed to prepare for suffering? Well, clearly we start by being good wives and husbands (in stark contrast to today's concept of "good wife" and "good husband"). We start by being united, loving, humble. We start be relying on God to repay while we "turn away from evil and do good" (1 Peter 3:11). That's how we start.

Then we need to be prepared to make a defense. Mind you, this isn't a legal defense. This isn't a "go to court and get your just due" defense. This is a defense aimed at explaining "the hope that is in you". This defense is first and foremost structured with "gentleness and respect". And the outcome we can expect is ... suffering.

We're not being asked to convince anyone. We're not being asked here to make converts. We're not being asked to build a logical argument based on science and philosophy and ... whatever. We're simply told to, with gentleness and respect, be prepared to explain why we have hope when people cause us to suffer for doing what is right. It is premised, then, on doing what is right with the expectation of abuse because our Savior was abused and that will be God's will.

Is that the kind of "defense" you're prepared to make? That's the defense we are commanded to prepare.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Problem of Abortion

Breitbart may not be the most "unbiased" source, so their headline is likely not helpful: Eugenicists Rejoice: 72 Percent of Aborted Mississippi Babies are Black. The facts, on the other hand, are disturbing without their bias. The CDC reports that more than 71% of babies aborted in Mississippi are black. And it's not a "Mississippi thing". In New York City, among African Americans, 24,758 were born in 2012 and 31,328 babies were aborted. That is more babies killed than born. And in New York City, more than 42% of the abortions were black children. This may not seem startling on the surface until you realize that 36% of all abortions in this country were performed on minority women who constitute only 13% of the female population (ages 15-44). My point? There's something terribly wrong.

Now, there are debates on the subject and lots of perspectives. What's the cause? Is it a racial problem or a poverty problem? Is the poverty problem a racial problem? Or is it a problem of unstable homes1? Are you a racist for noticing the problem?

And I'm not here to clear up the questions. I think the answers are much simpler than that. It's not a black/white, poor/rich, unstable/stable relationship question. It's much, much worse. We've taught our children for nearly a hundred years that life isn't of much value2. We've devalued any genuine source of a moral code. In place of these values, we've substituted self-gratification and the entitlement mentality that says "I deserve ..." with "... whatever I feel like I want" as a completion of the thought. Today, anyone who suggests otherwise is considered unworthy of respect or consideration.

Is the problem of abortion a problem of race or poverty or some other social factor? No. It is a problem of sin made worse by a culture that has embraced it and further exacerbated by embracing the deceitful heart (Jer 17:9) and the debased mind (Rom 1:28) over God's truth. Make it whatever problem you want, but I believe you'll find at its core that it's a sin problem, and our society has almost no means of dealing with that problem anymore since we've jettisoned the notion that God has answers. Without Christ, these questions loom large and answers aren't forthcoming and it doesn't look good for future generations.
1 reports that 69% of pregnancies among black women are unintended and 85% of abortions are on unmarried women.

2 In the 1940's, as young American men were going off to defend freedom both in Europe and the Pacific, they discovered that teaching them to shoot at targets did not equip them to shoot at men. In WWII only 15-20% of riflemen would shoot at exposed soldiers. By the time we got to Vietnam, it was 90% because they had been trained to overcome their resistance to killing. Through various means, we have taught subsequent generations to be better and better killers with less and less concern over human life.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Rock of Ages

I was having a conversation with a coworker the other day and the subject of death came up. I mentioned that I was ready to go. She told me, "Yeah, that's what my mother-in-law says. I asked her why. She said she has lived a full life and has been a good mother and a good wife and her kids are in a good place, so she's ready to go to heaven." And I thought, "I cannot imagine being able to claim that I had lived a good enough life for God to let me into His presence."

Consider for a moment the concept of "good enough". It implies a standard beneath which is "not good enough" and beyond is. And apparently this woman believed that she was above that line. And I cannot even consider ever being there. So while it seemed strange to me to hear, I realized shortly that hers was the standard perception. It seems that almost everyone who believes in a hereafter believes that they are "good enough". Oh, no, no one thinks "perfect"; just "good enough". But enough for sure. The standard, then? "Whatever I've done." Oh, and now more stuff makes sense, doesn't it? Isn't "whatever I do" the standard for "moral"? Hasn't most of our society determined that right and wrong is whatever you make of it and the "good enough" point is somewhere below "whatever I do"? Indeed, most have decided that anyone with an actual standard (one that even they might not meet) is bad, hateful, bigoted, narrow-minded.

Enter Christ. On one hand there is the abundantly clear "Go and sin no more." It was Jesus who said, "You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:48). And it is a quite obvious fact that not one of us measures up to that standard. So God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor 5:21). I don't stand in front of God with a pedigree. "I have lived a full life and have been a good father and a good husband, so you should let me in." Not working at all. No, I have a better standing than that. A more realistic one. "I don't deserve it. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die."

Do I have standards? Absolutely -- the ones given by the Righteous Judge of Heaven. Do I meet them? Not a chance. Whence comes my hope? In Christ alone. Where better to stand? On my own merits? God forbid!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Don't Be Surprised

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:12-19).
Could there be a more timely message to believers today? All around us the world is growing more hostile to Christians. "Oh," they'll tell us, "you're making a mountain out of a mole hill." Perhaps. Except, as it turns out, in the 20th century more Christians died for their faith around the world than in all other centuries combined. So we're facing "hostilities" here. They are working at stripping us of our religious freedoms. The public is becoming more hostile to Christians while seeking to protect sexual sin and hostile religions. Whereas once it was considered "tolerance" to hold "You believe what you want and we'll believe what we want", now it's "You agree with us or we will count you as hateful and we will drag you into court and we will turn the tide of public opinion against you." Even if you argue this isn't "hostilities", you have to admit that it isn't liberty, isn't ambivalence, isn't friendship, good will, benevolence, or any other antonym for "hostility" that you might find. When the swell of public opinion says, "Keep it off the street" and we are commanded not to do so, you cannot expect a pleasant outcome.

So we read, "Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you." And we read why. It is "to test you." Don't be surprised. Okay, then what? "Rejoice." Okay, now, see? Didn't see that coming, did you? Peter says we are to rejoice when we suffer as Christ did for Christ's sake (see Acts 4:21). Of course, we aren't to suffer for doing wrong (because we aren't supposed to be doing wrong), but there is no shame in suffering for doing right. Instead, "let him glorify God." ("Are you sure it doesn't say 'Take them to court' or 'Stand up for your rights' or 'Sue the pants off 'em'?" Yeah, I'm sure.)

"Judgment", Peter says, "begins at home." Okay, He said "at the household of God." Same thing. Think about that. We deserve judgment. In Christ, we don't get the eternal judgment we deserve, but we do get the chastening of God (Heb 12:4-11). Don't think otherwise. ("God never punished me," you might think. Be warned. Hebrews says, "If you are left without discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.") We expect it. We deserve it. And while we don't get the ultimate, we shouldn't be surprised if we get some of it.

Peter then tells us something about suffering that most of us don't likely consider. "Let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (1 Peter 4:19). "What," you ask me, "you mean about entrusting our souls to God?" No, we get that ... or should. No, here's the wording. Peter says that when we suffer we suffer "according to God's will". Now that ought to get your attention. It isn't an accident. It isn't a dilemma. It isn't a surprise. It is God's will. I know. You may have been told otherwise. You may have been led to believe that God never intends you to suffer. Peter disagrees.

We can expect suffering. We can expect that things will not get better for us. We can know, in these expectations, that it is to test us. We can expect that it is an opportunity to rejoice, to be glad, to reveal Christ's glory. We can expect that it is God's will. As such, we have a faithful Creator on which to rely. Expect it. But don't worry about it. Rejoice!

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Gift and the Gifted

Yesterday we learned that, as those identified with Christ who suffered in the flesh, we are to live for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-5). What does a life lived for the will of God look like?

Peter says "Be self-controlled and sober-minded" (1 Peter 4:7). Peter says, "Show hospitality" (1 Peter 4:9). He says "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly" (1 Peter 4:8). We get these. These are good. Indeed, that last one is so oft repeated in Scripture as to be known even to the skeptic. "Hey, aren't you Christians supposed to be loving??!!" Well, yes, we are.

And then Peter says something that I don't recall ever hearing from the pulpit. He gives it by way of command, not suggestion. "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another" (1 Peter 4:10).

Now, we're all aware of "spiritual gifts" and such, but how far do we pursue that? Do you know what your gift is? (Isn't it interesting ... Peter says two things about that. First, "Each has received a gift". No one can say, "Well, I never did." Second, Peter says "a gift". Do we get more than one? Perhaps, but, but Peter seems to indicate "one".) Peter says we are to be "good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Peter 4:10). The idea is clear. "I've given you a spiritual gift for the benefit of the Body of Christ ... use it." Are you? Peter tells us to operate in that gift as that which comes from God (the source) and "in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (the end) (1 Peter 4:11). No small thing.

What do we know, then? First, everyone who belongs to Christ is gifted. Second, you're given a gift to serve. Thus, the aim is to use it. Are you? Are you serving with the gift given you? Are you being a good steward? Are you doing what God has enabled you to do for the purpose that God has intended ... His glory? If not, perhaps it's something you should pursue. Okay, perhaps "perhaps" is the wrong word.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Your Best Life Now

I was taught the "2PROAPT" method of Bible reading. It's a little too complicated to explain here, but the core of this approach is "observe" and "apply". You know ... "What does it say?" and "What, then, should I do?" Good ideas. Indeed, even biblical. You can see it when you read something like 1 Peter 4.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:1-5).
Notice the "Since therefore" statement at the start. "Because of these facts, you ought to ..." That's the idea. Observe the facts (Christ suffered in the flesh) and apply them. What is Peter's application of this fact? "Arm yourselves with the same way of thinking." What way of thinking? "Live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God."

Now, wait a minute! That can't be right. That can't be what Peter meant, can it? I mean, look, we all know that life is all about human passions. What else is there? What can be more important than to find your passion (seriously, look up that phrase and see the host of sources that tell you how to do it), to live life for all it's worth, to do what pleases you most. What else could there be??! It cannot be the case that Peter is finding fault with that kind of ... truth.

He is.

Consider that. If you believe that life is about your enjoyment, your pleasure, your comfort ... you ... then Peter says you missed the point. It is not about indulging your senses or fulfilling your longings. I mean, sure, we Christian's get that it's not about drinking, orgies, or parties. But Peter says it's not about you. What is life about? "The will of God."

Wow! That wasn't really on the radar, was it? I mean, don't most of us think, at the back of our minds, that it really is, deep down, about us? Didn't Jesus die for us? Doesn't God love us? Aren't we really the whole point? Even if we consciously voice an objection to the notion, deep down we seem to think otherwise. Why else would we become upset with God when things don't go our way?

Notice the promised response to anyone who chooses not to view life as "all about me". "They are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you." You can see why, I'm sure. I mean, what could be more natural than to pursue "your best life now"? Except that God says pursuing His will is the point, not your pleasure. And isn't that indeed the response you see?

How would that change things for you? What would a life lived in pursuit of God's will over your own pleasure and comfort look like? We ought to consider such things because, after all, "they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." That's not an accounting that anyone can stand up to. We're counting on the blood of Christ; we ought also to live up to His death because "whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." And that's where Peter started, wasn't it? So what does Peter say is your best life now? That would be to set aside pursuits of pleasure and comfort in favor of the full-time pursuit of God's will. That is the best you'll get.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Taming the Barbarian

I referenced a Huffington Post article by Carina Kolodny a short time ago where she openly and warmly admits that she believes and hopes that "marriage equality" will put an end to "traditional marriage". Her idea was that marriage as it has been defined since the beginning of time was misogyny and redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would remove that feature. Some of her key points included the changing of names, so that a woman would not share her husband's last name. She was concerned about having children and hoped that women, liberated from marriage ("traditional marriage") would be delightfully free not to reproduce and, if they did, wouldn't have to have her child/children share their father's last name. And, of course, she wanted women everywhere to be able to throw off the yoke of oppression and not have to do the housework anymore. Basically, from her perspective, women could "get theirs". They could become the center, the point, the main issue of their own universe. Or, to put it another way, she would like to perfect the trajectory feminism started for women -- the final and ultimate self-centeredness of a woman.

Some of what she wrote was clearly a misunderstanding of the concept. She indicated that marriage was originally a property agreement (and indicated that we who disagreed were liars). Like any abuse of an idea or definition, this would be just such a one. God made Adam and Eve and made them to be coworkers, complementary, a pair that is one entity who fill in the gaps in the other's abilities. God defined marriage not as a property agreement, but as a man and a woman joined as one to reproduce, to work together toward common ends, and to hold one another up. So when some decided that the best way to carry that out was by property agreement (or multiple marriages or by abusing their wives or ...), it didn't affect the definition. It simply reflected a failed understanding and sinful attitudes and an improper, unintended way of carrying out the definition.

Some of what she wrote was, frankly, horrifying to me. If she got her way, we could, in good conscience, cease to reproduce. "Don't worry about it! Do whatever you want! Don't let anyone tell you what is right, best, good, or required. We lesbians won't be reproducing (obviously); why should you?" Her notion would be a world purely determined by "what I like", a terrifying proposition.

But there was, in her article, a hidden secret. It's something feminism missed. It's something most of us miss. It's something that I even missed until she wrote the article. Indeed, she didn't even write this fact; she merely pointed it out to me. It is, I believe, one of Satan's hidden agendas.

It has long been known that women and men are different. Sorry. Can't deny it. It's true. God designed us differently. That also is true. He designed men for certain roles, tasks, jobs, and women for others. And He designed it so that men and women would complement one another. (Complement: to complete; to join one or more items that makes the whole more perfect.) He would have strength and she would have compassion. He would have courage and she would have tenderness. He would be linear in his thinking and she would be multitasking. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Together they cover all the bases. In this sense, it has also been understood that wives "tame the barbarian", so to speak. Men are wild until they are married, and then they are domesticated. Men are focused on fun and self and women teach them to focus on other than themselves. Men know how to work hard; women know how to prepare them for it with dress and nutrition and ... well, you get the idea. For most of time men needed to be tamed and wives were the ones who did it.

Enter feminism. The aim was "equality", but the sights appeared to be set for "equivalence". That is, not merely "equal in value", but "no significant differences". Oddly enough (that is tongue in cheek), instead of elevating women to new heights, the outcome was lowering them to the level of their very complaints about men. Consider sex. Men and women are not equal in terms of sex. Men are biologically driven while women are driven by other forces. Thus, women are in the driver's seat. In earlier times, then, they could hold out sex for marriage and, further, continue to use that control element for marital fidelity. As long as the majority of women operated on the same basis, it worked fairly well. But women have decided to lower themselves to the male concept of "breeding like rabbits", so to speak (although modern contraception eliminates the "breeding", doesn't it?). Instead of becoming more unified in sex for marriage and sex for fidelity, they plummeted to sex for no better reason than recreation. And so it goes.

Now women are no longer taming their men. They aren't trying. They don't care. They're no better. They can't teach their husbands to be more kind, considerate, tenderhearted, and selfless because they've abandoned it in favor of self. They once had a notion of enlightened self-interest that dragged their sphere of influence into a better place. Now they've degenerated into simple self-interest where "Do whatever makes you feel good" is the rule.

That is a plot, plain and simple. No, not a lesbian plot. Not a feminist plot. It's Satan's ploy to make men as bad as he can and women as bad as the men. And we, in the name of "equality", seek the lowest common denominator. Carina Kolodny and the like glorify the lowest common denominator. This does not bode well. "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up ..." (Rom 1:22-24). "Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them" (Rom 1:32). This does not bode well at all.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Protected Class

According to this site of legal articles, there is a list of groups that are protected classes under the U.S. government. According to our government, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, pregnancy, national origin, race, ethnic background, religion, or sexual orientation. These are what the government recognizes as "protected classes". The protection is against discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws only regard unequal or unfair treatment as unlawful discrimination when the victim is a member of a defined group known as a protected class.

Now, sometimes the whole concept makes no sense at all. The EEOC, for instance, tells us that "a help-wanted ad that seeks 'females' or 'recent college graduates' may discourage men and people over 40 from applying and may violate the law." So a strip club looking to hire women would violate the anti-discrimination laws, a company aiming to assist college graduates would be guilty of discrimination, and a health club that sought male janitors for the men's locker room could be in deep trouble. But let's not go there. There is an earlier problem here.

Now, consider. What we're talking about is protected classes. In order to be in a protected class, you have to be classified. There are categories, groups, collections that share something in common and are, therefore, defined. So, in order to be in a protected class of "race", you must be part of a "race". That would be testable, verifiable, demonstrable. If "Asian" is a protected class, you could demonstrate that you were of "Asian" descent and be in that class, and if you couldn't, you would be outside that protection. Easy.

At least, one would think so. And in most cases it would be. But now we have this protected class that is based on "sexual orientation". In order to be in this protected class, you have to be classified in some sort of "sexual orientation" or another. Here's the problem -- no one is quite sure how to do that.

We used to be told that sexual orientation was either "heterosexual" or "homosexual". Then they threw in "bisexual" and we lost binary points. No longer were you "either/or". From there it changed to a spread of notions like "mostly heterosexual" or "somewhat homosexual" (no one used these terms, but they suggested the ideas) and we ended up with a line. It became a continuum. Everyone fell somewhere on this line, where you could be completely attracted sexually to the opposite sex on one end of the line, completely attracted sexually to the same sex on the other end of the line, equally attracted sexually to both sexes in the middle, and whole shades of variations between. "No one," they assured us (when they weren't arguing over the whole "born with it" thing or contending for rights they felt they deserved), "falls on a single point. We're all variables." Worse, we're all changeable variables. So we have the guy who decided late in life that he was actually a woman and made that change, only to discover a few months later that he was not, and changed back. We have notable folk who came out as lesbians (for instance) in same-sex relationships only to break up and go back to heterosexual relationships. Or the actress who decided to be homosexual because she thought it would be easier.

But wait! From there it only gets worse! Now they've assured us that it isn't a line. No, it's more of a circle, perhaps. There are more categories. You might be a heterosexual and asexual -- attracted only to the opposite gender but not actually attracted to any. Or you might be an avid homosexual -- attracted only to the same sex without any letting up. And shades in between. And varying with the moment. What a mess!

This, they tell us, is included in the category of "protected class". Your sexual orientation is undefinable, irregular, malleable, and mutable, and it will be regarded as a "class" even though it can't be pinned down.

Age discrimination is defined -- people who are age 40 or older. Disablities are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Race or ethnicity are easy to figure out in terms of classification (such as hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features). You can define "pregnancy". You are either in or not in a particular religion. But sexual orientation doesn't enjoy this kind of simplified definition. It is varied, variable, multifaceted, and undetermined. And this group falls under "protected classes". I suppose it's indicative of the culture in which we live. Common sense is no longer common. Words are no longer defined. Reality is defined by how we feel. And none of this is making any sense at all.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Religious Discrimination

No, not discrimination against religious people. Discrimination by religious people on the basis of their religion. What does that look like? Does it make sense? I'm going to examine these questions, but keep in mind that I'll be doing it strictly from a Christian perspective. You other religions will have to figure this out on your own.

First we need to figure out what we mean by "discrimination"? You see, everyone discriminates and we don't consider it bad. If you can taste spices in food, you have "discriminating taste". If you can tell light blue from dark blue, your eyes are discriminating. Basic "discrimination" is simply the ability to tell differences between things. And we consider that a good thing when we can discriminate between right and wrong, good and evil, and so on. But the discrimination in view here isn't basic discrimination. We're talking about "unequal treatment". But even that isn't clear enough. I will certainly not treat my wife the same way I treat a stranger on the street. I will not treat my children the same way I treat my coworkers. No one treats everyone the same. Everyone discriminates. So what is actually in mind is "unfair unequal treatment", you see, and that's something else. We have a general sense, in fact, that we shouldn't treat anyone unfairly.

But the question is about religious discrimination. Are we, as Christians, commanded to discriminate -- to treat people differently in a way that might potentially be viewed as "unfair"? You see, if we find that we are allowed to, but not required to, then when the government commands we don't, we mustn't (Rom 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:17). But if we are commanded to treat particular people differently than others, then we would have grounds for religious discrimination. "I don't like that" is not sufficient grounds. "I am required to" is necessary. And, as it turns out, there are specific biblical commands involved. For instance, if the person in question is immoral and unrepentant and claims to be a Christian, we are commanded not to associate with them (1 Cor 5:9-11). But what about those outside the faith or those whose status you don't know? Well, Paul condemned those who "not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them" (Rom 1:32). So we are clearly required to avoid doing "the same" and we are required to avoid giving approval to others who "practice them".

Now we're left with another question. What is "the same"? What is it we are supposed to avoid endorsing? If you think "He's about to say, 'Homosexuals!'", you'd be wrong. Paul lists a bunch of things. "... being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful" (Rom 1:29-31). Okay, that's quite a list, And the truth is that sexual immorality which includes homosexual behavior is on it (just before the place I took up the quote). So if we're going to be obedient believers, we must not engage in these things or give approval to those who do. Think about that for a moment.

But the question remains about homosexuality. Are we required to discriminate against -- treat unequally and unfairly -- those who have a sexual preference for the same gender? That's "homosexuality", you know. The world refers to "homosexuals" not as an action, but as a being, a lifestyle, an entire definition. To that I would say, "No." Because humans by definition are sinners who tend toward that entire list I gave, so if we are going to discriminate on the basis of tendencies, we're all out, aren't we?

So what are we talking about? We are talking about a very narrow thing here. We are talking first about behavior, not propensity. And we are talking about approval, not general relationships. We are not commanded to withdraw from sinful people. Indeed, Paul says the opposite. "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world" (1 Cor 5:9-10). But we are required to avoid approval of sin. Not propensity, but sin. Beyond that there is a very small set that is a "Christians who are immoral" category. Those we are to avoid.

So, can a Christian engage in some sort of business with a sinner? Absolutely! Are we required to avoid engaging with sinners? Don't be ridiculous! We cannot endorse sin and we must avoid those who claim to be Christians but indulge in unrepentant immorality. Oh, look at that! Again, it's sin we're talking about. So if a person engaged in a particular sin asks me to endorse that particular sin, I would be obligated to refuse. And if I bear consequences for such "religious discrimination", Peter says, "If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose ..." (1 Peter 2:20-21). Get that? "You have been called for this purpose." Be ready.

One last note. The claim, the accusation, the protest against a Christian photographer (for instance) who refuses, by means of celebratory participation, to endorse the sin of someone else is that it is "discrimination" and that it is discrimination against a "protected class". The Christian florist that refuses to provide an endorsement for a union of two people God commands not to engage in that activity is indeed discriminating because of his or her religion and, I think I've demonstrated, doing so biblically. However, notice that the argument that this is discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation or gender identity" is false. (Not that the individual florist or photographer wouldn't be; just that it's not necessary.) If I had a business in which I refused to endorse a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex, I would not do so because of their orientation or identity; I would do so because of the behavior -- the sin. Just like "No shirt, no shoes, no service", I would be saying, "I will not provide endorsement to sin." No "orientation" or "identity" required. Like "no shoes", it is the behavior in view. Now, given the large and growing public and legal prejudice against Christians on this topic, I know the courts would throw it out. That doesn't make it not true. Discrimination on the basis of religion? Yes. On the basis of a religious hate for an orientation or identity? Not at all.