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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Seen Around Town

I'm going to just skip the whole "Halloween is the devil's playground" discussion this time around and go for the humor. Here are some things I've seen of late on t-shirts and bumper stickers.
I'm still kind of mad that they never told me how to get to Sesame Street.

I'm only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.

The fact that there's a highway to hell and a stairway to heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic patterns.

The people that know me best think of me as a cautionary tale.

You can't scare me; I have a daughter.

Of all the things I've lost in life it's my mind I miss the most.

Sometimes I wake up grumpy. Other times I just let him sleep.

"I like cooking my family and pets." This is why commas are so important.

"If you fall, I'll be there to catch you." - The floor

Friday, October 30, 2015

No Praying!

Perhaps you haven't kept up. It seems that an assistant coach for a Bremerton, WA, high school football team has now been placed on administrative leave because he refused to stop praying on the field after football games after having been ordered to stop. The school says he is "constitutionally required" to avoid "public religious displays" and is now barred from participating in any capacity in the football program until he agrees to comply.

Now, I have to say, this is nuts. This is crazy. You see, the man wasn't holding a prayer meeting for his team. He would go out alone on the field after the games to thank God for the team, the outcome, the safety of his guys, that kind of thing. He's been doing it for 7 years. The impromptu prayer gathered others, including players from both teams, fans, and even coaches. But none of it was official, mandatory, or anything like it. Hey, it was even at the end of the game so no one got held up from doing what needed to be done (like start the game or something). Folks, this is not rational. It is not possible to absolutely remove religion from the public. Can't be done. If Mr. Kennedy (the coach in question) believes in God, then it must bear out in his actions. And, look, I'm not even talking about Mr. Kennedy here. If someone else believes in Allah, that will influence how he or she acts and if they are Satan worshippers, that will influence how they act. That's the nature of things. You always act on what you actually believe. It cannot be banned.

Now, I have to say, I'm not sure of the biblical backing for Mr. Kennedy here, either. See, we're commanded by God to obey the authorities that God has put in place (Rom 13:1-5). The biblical example we have is that, unless commanded by human authority to violate a command from God, we're supposed to abide by the commands of human authority over us. Thus, when the Sanhedrin commanded the disciples to stop preaching the Gospel, the command was in direct contradiction to Jesus's command to preach the Gospel, so they were forced to submit to Jesus and not to the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:28-29). And as far as I can tell we have no command from God to go out on the football field at the end of a football game and pray. Jesus suggested (And you know that a "suggestion" from Christ is a command, right?) that most of our prayers should be in private (Matt 6:6). I mean, clearly Jesus Himself had "non-private" prayers (like, for instance, John 17), but as to the location commanded by God, we have none. So I'm not at all clear that Mr. Kennedy can claim biblical precedence here. He may be standing on his own, not on biblical grounds.

So, why did I originally say it was crazy? I'm not sure how one can read the First Amendment and claim that the Constitution bans public religious displays. Even for people in "government roles". The First Amendment requires that no such ban be made. So on a constitutional ground I think Kennedy has protection and the school administration is simply pushing an anti-Christian agenda already started in our nation and especially forwarded by left-leaning politicians and their followers. As for me, I'd suggest Mr. Kennedy submit to the authority God has placed over him and stop praying on the field. But that's because I don't see the Constitution as my first guide to godly behavior. I get that from Scripture. I don't know where he gets his. I do know where the school administration gets theirs ... and it ain't the Constitution.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Discrimination is a bad word. We all know we shouldn't discriminate. Well, most of us know. Because the phrase "We shouldn't discriminate" is discrimination. Discrimination is simply defined as telling the difference between one thing and another. "We shouldn't discriminate" is saying that one thing -- not discriminating -- is right and the other -- discriminating -- is wrong. So we should discriminate ... on the subject of discrimination. Oh, it gets so confusing.

So what do we generally understand the term to mean? Well, that would be "the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex" to which we would like to add "sexual orientation, gender identity, or favorite color." Or something like it. (We tend to include "religion", but in a misleading way. "If you're Buddhist or Muslim or something like that, you should not receive prejudicial treatment. If you're a hated 'conservative Christian', we should have the right to stone you in the gate." So to speak.)

The accusation, then, is Christians (those Christians who view the Bible as God's Word and understand it as it has been understood since its inception) discriminate against homosexuals. (You see? Words are difficult. By "discriminate" here I'm referring to the second version. By "homosexuals" I'm referring to males or females ... or whatever span of gender you wish to apply ... who have a sexual predilection for the same ... gender. Oh, man, this just gets muddier as we go along. But you get the idea.) What I'm wondering is how do we apply unjust or prejudicial treatment to people who categorize themselves (however unclear it may be) as "homosexual" or "transgender"?

Keep in mind, this "discrimination" comes into play when someone like me says, "The Bible says that homosexual behavior is a sin." Keep in mind that it doesn't require that I say, "No shirt, no shoes, no service ... or if you take my 'gay test' and fail." You need not be denied anything from me except acceptance. (See what I did there? "Except" and "accept" in the same sentence. Oh, never mind.) The perception seems to be "If you do not fully embrace my sexual proclivities, you are discriminating." Yes, I am discriminating (in the first sense), but what, pray tell, is the unjust treatment here?

Somewhere along the line someone fed us the line that we have to embrace that which we currently deem immoral. I don't know why. If my child does something wrong, it's not like I stop loving my child. Nor does love require that I embrace my little teenage car thief's behavior. No, love doesn't require that I embrace sinful behavior. Except, apparently, if that sinful behavior is sexual immorality. Why is that?

Since I am not treating people unjustly or prejudicially by simply saying, "The Bible says this behavior is sin," and since that is classified as "discrimination", I can only conclude that we, again, have a language barrier. I can only conclude that the discrimination that they want to avoid is the first kind, the kind that says, "This is different than that" or, more pointedly, "This is moral and that is not." As if that's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Isms of Us All

There are certain things that just are. Rain is wet. The sky is blue. Men are sexist. Whites are racist. Rich people are ... well, whatever the "ism" is that fits their disdain for the poor. Everyone knows this.

I wouldn't even deny it. Well, sure, I'm speaking in generalities. I mean, there are some men who are not sexist, some caucasians who are not racist, and ... well, you get it. So don't offer me the exceptions. That doesn't change the generalities.

I would, however, suggest that it's exceedingly short-sighted. The implication of my prior stereotypes is that the opposites are not true. That is, women are not sexist, non-whites are not racist, and poor people are not disinclined toward the rich. I think the moment I get to that third one you might see the problem. Of course the "have-nots" don't like the "haves". Because those others have what they want and have not. Simple really. And I am relatively sure that if you're fair and honest and look around a little, you'll find that there is a sizable portion of the female sex that hates men (called "sexism") and a goodly number of non-whites who hate whites (called "racism").

I remember an awards speech in the shadow of 9/11 when Sally Fields assured us, "If women ruled the world, there would be no war." Clearly Sally Fields 1) had a dislike for men -- at least some -- and 2) believed women were better. I remember thinking, "Apparently you don't know your history, Sally." There was Queen Anne's war (1702-1713), Catherine the Great and the Russo–Turkish War against the Ottoman Empire (1768–1774) (which she started), Victoria of England and the Boer War (1899-1902), Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Falkland War (1982), and even Indira Gandhi and the 1971 India-Pakistan War which made India a nuclear power.

"You see?" some might be saying. "You're doing just what you said not to do ... using the exception to disprove the generality." I don't think so. I think that the real truth is that those kinds of "isms" reside in us all. Women can be just as sexist as men. Black people can be just as racist as whites. Clearly the have-nots are just as prejudiced against rich people as the rich are against the poor. You know what? I'm pretty sure that non-fundamentalists are just as fundamentalist in their own beliefs as the fundamentalists about whom they complain. It's not who you are. It's human. "I'm better and you're not." You know ... sin. There are "isms" in us all, and likely common "isms" (as opposed to communism).

So when you generalize that "Men are sexist pigs" or that "Fundamentalists are narrow-minded haters" or the like, remember, one finger pointing leaves three pointing back.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Law-Abiding Guy

How many times have I heard that we dirty, rotten Christians pick and choose what parts of the Bible we will obey or not? If I've heard it once, I've heard it ... much more than once. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard it, I'd have more than a dollar. (Any other silly cliches I can use here? No. I think I'm done.) The thing is, I don't think it's true. At least, not in my case.

The accusation is that we Christians are ignoring (selectively) the Old Testament Law. Why do they say that? Well, I'm not cutting my hair the right way, avoiding shrimp, or making sure to buy only cotton shirts. See? So why not allow another break in the law ... say, in the case of homosexual behavior? Ah, yes ... now we get to the real "why". But I don't think I'm in this category of cherry-picking which laws I'll follow and which I won't.

You see, the Old Testament has its Laws. They are divided, essentially, into three categories. There are the sacrificial (sometimes called ceremonial) laws about the tabernacle/temple and sacrifices and all that. There are cultural laws -- the civil laws of the State of Israel, so to speak. And there are the moral laws, those things which God says are right or wrong in terms of ethics. So, where do I stand on these? Here's where I stand. "Truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (Matt 5:18) So, how does that work?

Sacrificial Laws

These laws were about dealing with sin. How is Man's sin made right with God? In the Old Testament they were handled in a sacrificial system that pointed to a future system. That future system is Christ. He is the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29). He is the scapegoat (Lev 16:5-10). He is the Ultimate Sacrifice that takes away sin. He is the fulfillment and embodiment of the Sacrificial Laws. I still aim to abide by the principles of the Sacricial Laws.

Cultural Laws

These laws were aimed at cultural Israel to make them be consciously separated from the rest of the world, to "come out from among them and be separate" (2 Cor 6:17). They weren't a moral code, but a separation code. They included food to eat, clothing to wear, and health codes. Their aim was to make God's people distinct from the world. Now, obviously, Israel was a theocracy. As such, there is no "church as government" condition for us. Their civil laws included civil sanctions and we are no longer in place for non-Israel. So, for Christians, we are identified with Christ. We are set apart by being "in Christ" (Rom 8:1) and have "Christ in you" (Col 1:27). We are separated from the rest of the world by our identity with Him. I still aim to abide by the principles of the Cultural Laws.

Moral Laws

These laws covered ethics. What was right and wrong? They covered ethics in a comprehensive way. That is, they were true regardless of culture or times. These are most obvious because they are repeated in both Old and New Testaments. So we read prohibitions in both Old and New against adultery, homosexual activity (all sorts of sexual immorality), murder, theft, and so on, and these would be the Moral Law that transcends cultural Israel. I still aim to abide by the principles of the Moral Laws.

The laws that bound Israel -- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself -- are the laws that still bind Christians. The means of forgiveness for Israel -- the sacrifice of God's Lamb (in preview for them) -- is still the means of forgiveness for Christians. That Israel needed to be distinct from the world is still true for Christians today. I still aim to abide by God's Laws which, according to Christ, in principle do not pass away.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Taken for Granted

Communication is tenuous at best. First there is the problem of language as it changes underneath your very nose. (Get it? Comes out of your mouth ... under your nose ... never mind.) "Marriage" means one thing last year and something else this year. That kind of thing. But in principle language is difficult because words don't actually exist. Words are things intended to convey ideas. I have "this idea" and I need to transfer it to you, so I use words. Have you ever found that you know what a word means but can't actually define it? That's because you get the idea even if the words that transmit the idea aren't readily available.

So, here I am, merrily reading along in Philippians and I come across this verse.
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake. (Phil 1:29)
Okay, let's see ... so Paul is trying to tell them to "Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil 1:27) even in hard times, standing firm and without fear (Phil 1:27-28), because the good news is that God has granted to you to suffer for His sake! Yippee!! Oh, wait ... is that a good thing?

So now I'm stuck. What does it mean "to grant"? You see, this is one of those words you likely understand but can't fully define. There is a sense in this word of something good. You see, at its core, "to grant" is a verb meaning "to give". But it's something more. It is to give something good. An employer can "give you a pink slip" or "give you a bonus" and, while you receive something in either case, they are not equally pleasant. But "grant" suggests something pleasant. The dictionary says things like "to bestow" or "to agree" or "to transfer" or "to accede". There, you see? "To accede" means "to assent to a request or demand". Something you want. Something that is good. Inherent in "grant" are two aspects. One is "I have it and you don't" and the other is "If I give it to you, you'll certainly want it." Merriam-Webster says it is "to agree to do, give, or allow (something asked for or hoped for)." And that's good, you see? Not just something given (like a pink slip or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick) but something good. In fact, the Greek word in this verse is χαρίζομαι -- charizomai. Rooted in "charis" -- grace or favor -- it means "to grant as a favor". It refers to gratuitous kindness. To give a good thing. Okay, so it's something good that you could not or would not get on your own and someone is giving it to you.

So, Paul is saying, "It is not something you could or would get on your own, but God has kindly given you the opportunity to suffer for the sake of Christ." Yippee!!

As if that's not strange enough, we had to just leap right over text in front of it. Because right in the very same sentence is a phrase that says we were granted something else. We are granted to "believe in Him". Not only that, but also to suffer for Him.

Wait ... we are granted to believe in Him? I mean, I was always told that God provided His Son and the offer of salvation and the promise of new life and that faith was something I brought to the table. God doesn't believe for us, does He? I mean, that doesn't even make sense. And, indeed, it doesn't. Still, whence comes faith? Where do we get the willingness or ability to believe? According to this text, that is granted from God. It's not something we drum up to start with. It is a grant, a favorable gift, a gratuitous kindness. Like when we read of how the Lord's servant should be kind to everyone, "correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim 2:25) See? There it is again! Something that Scripture says is granted that we always thought we supplied on our own -- to believe and to repent.

So, I'm kind of stuck here. I know we've always been told that we provide our faith and repentance. It looks like Scripture says something else. Clearly we exercise faith and repentance, but it does not originate with us; it is granted by God. So I'm going to have to go with Scripture here rather than other suggested sources on the topic.

Ironic, isn't it? The phrase, "to take for granted", means "to fail to appreciate something". We can either take faith and repentance (that we exercise but God gives) as a good gift from God ("granted"), or we can take it for granted ("fail to appreciate"). Now, in English, I wonder how we would differentiate those two options? We can take it for granted or take it for granted, by which we don't mean the same thing. Sigh. Communication is tenuous at best.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


In my business as in many it is good to be outstanding in your field. Or, as the popular joke goes, out standing in your field.

Not quite the same, are they? Outstanding and out standing are, in some sense, opposites. One is excellence and the other is exile. As it turns out, Christians are expected to be both. We are supposed to be reflectors of the glory of God. Outstanding. We are to be "in but not of" the world. Out standing. How do we do that? How do we stand out from the world?

A shining example
"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matt 5:16)
That was Jesus's idea. "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) That's the way it should be. On the negative side, Paul said, "Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints." (Eph 5:3) On the positive side, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." (Rom 12:10)

In what ways could we be shining examples?

A biblical marriage
I told my sons of the time when, in order to get ahead at work, you had to be the best. "These days," I told them, "you just have to show up regularly and on time." They laughed ... and discovered I was right. It used to be that in order to be a "good spouse" you had to excel at all sorts of stuff. These days the simple lifelong commitment to one person is dazzling. "You've been married for how long?" Fifty years was great. Today, 20 is amazing. We should be "for life."

A few years back a young Christian I worked with sent out wedding invitations to his coworkers. Overheard in the next cubicle: "I asked him if he had slept with her yet. [Incredulously] He hasn't! Is that even possible? Who does that?"

A commitment to sex within the confines of marriage (Heb 13:4) and a lifelong commitment to one spouse (Matt 19:6) would make you stand out beyond most today. Add to that a wife that submits to and respects her husband (Eph 5:22-23, 33; 1 Peter 3:1-6) and a husband who sacrificially loves and honors his wife (Eph 5:25-33; 1 Peter 3:7), and you will be stellar.

Having and enjoying children
The Bible says, "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!" (Psa 127:3-5) Luckily, modern society knows better. Children? Well, maybe. But certainly not like those ridiculous "19 and counting" kind of families. "Hey, 4 is probably 2 too many. Maybe 3 too many. For some of us, even 4 too many." Viewing children as a heritage from the Lord, a reward, a blessing would make you glow in the dark to a world obsessed with self.

Not keeping up with the Joneses
Maybe it's not the Joneses. Maybe it's just "what I want". But we want a lot and we will spend every last dime ... no, scrap that ... money we don't have to get what we want and get it now. I mean, who can live without the latest iPhone, a TV in every room, a couple of cars and maybe some recreational vehicle(s) of some sort? Imagine, instead, a person dedicated to property as a steward rather than consumer. "This isn't mine. What I have is given to me by God. What I seek is to glorify God, not to amuse myself with more." (James 1:17; Matt 6:33; Matt 6:21) Truly a stand-out approach.

Give ... give, give, give
A rich man was asked, "How much is enough?" He answered, "Just a little bit more." Imagine turning that axiom on its head. Not "How much is enough for you to get?" but "How much is enough to give?" Imagine a life marked by "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) That would be time, resources, self, just about anything God has given us to give. Even in the world today people who give rather than take are notable stand outs. Christians should be marked by it.

Commitment to the Body of Christ
Since Christianity is marked by a "one another" ethic and we are commanded to be part of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:4-27) and not neglect gathering together (Heb 10:23-25), it would seem that being part of a local gathering of Christians would be important. I'm not talking about "attending church". I'm talking about interaction. Sitting in a pew (or whatever the modern equivalent might be) and singing and listening to a sermon is not how we "love one another" or exercise the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit. A genuine, life-involving commitment to the Body of Christ makes you a stand out even among a lot of Christians these days. And that's a good thing.

Bless and not curse
Multiple places in Scripture we are told to "bless and not curse" our enemies. This assumes enemies. And it assumes that the natural response to enemies is "curse" and not "bless". If you are a person who, by the power of God (Phil 2:13), opts to "bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:28), you won't stay hidden for long. There will definitely be something different about you that people will notice. If you defend your faith "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15), you'll be outstanding.

The Bible has some interesting descriptions of believers. We are called ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20). That is, this world is not our home; we're just emissaries from God's kingdom here to share what God has sent us to share. We are heavenly beings in human suits on assignment. Peter calls us "sojourners". That is, we're only staying here temporarily. If we keep that kind of mentality, it ought to have ripple effects on how we live. Gathering "stuff"? Makes no sense. Paul describes a final test we'll all see where our works are tested by fire (1 Cor 3:11-15). I guarantee most of what this world calls "good" or "success" will be burned up in that fire. We are sojourners. We are just passing through. Living for eternity rather than a few years here will make you a real outstanding person.

Let your light so shine (Yes, I know I just repeated it.) We need to be outstanding. We need to stand out. And it is expected (and even good, biblically) that this will make us exiles in many senses. But our aim must be to glorify God in all we do. So "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Be outstanding.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


You know, it's somewhat interesting to me. There are apparently people out there -- people I don't actually know, mind you -- who are intent on making me change. It's odd, in a sense. They seem to swirl around waiting for me to say something ... wrong. Well, of course, wrong in their view. And then they pounce. "You're wrong!" Generally the claim is considered sufficient argument to prove the claim. At least, in their minds.

I know. It sounds like another "victim card". In truth, I'm more fascinated than victimized. I mean, if my kids had paid as close attention to what I said as these people who don't know me do, I would have been delighted. Oh, of course, it would be nice if these folk actually listened to me. I mean, much of their reaction is not to what I said, but what they heard. "Did you even read what I wrote?" I wonder much of the time. I am responsible for what I say, but I'm not responsible for what they understand.

Seriously, I can't quite figure out why they care that I'm wrong. For me, I can cruise around and read all sorts of stuff from people I know and people I don't and people I admire and people of whom I'm only dimly aware and think, "I think they're wrong." Do I feel the need to point it out? Do I hop onto the site and lay down my scorching, logical argument that "You're wrong because I say so!" like so many do with me? No. I think, "No big deal. Lots of people are wrong." Oh, if it's a friend or someone who I think might benefit from a comment in that direction, I might, as kindly as I know how, mention it to them. But never to random Internet strangers. There's just no point.

So I can't figure out these people. What are they hoping to gain? It's not like their (flimsy) arguments are going to change my thinking. Conversely, it's not like my arguments (flimsy or otherwise) are going to change their world. In fact, I've never tried to. I mean, I say, "This is what the Bible says" and point out where and maybe even expand on it, and, based on my personal worldview that includes the claim that the Bible is God's Word, I might even say, "This is what God says" (because I have this silly notion that if it's in the Bible and clear enough, it is actually what God says), but even at that level of "presumption" (you decide if it's presumptive), I'm not lobbying Congress to make a law or warning their churches to kick them out for believing different or ... whatever. You know, like some of them do. If the standard of "wrong" is "does harm", I'm doing no wrong because I'm doing no harm. I doubt that there's a single person among the vast numbers (12? 13?) of readers that would say, "What he wrote did me harm." Well, not on this side of the asylum walls. So by their standards I should just be allowed to go on my merry way. But ... no.

It's not like I'm going to change anything. This blog is "Stan's opinion" by definition. If you are inclined to agree with me, it might change you, but not because "Stan said it." You will never hear, "Thus saith the Stan" as a definitive proof. If I think you might be open to input, I might offer input. If you don't like it, I assume you'll reject it. I don't need to call your pastor and have you excommunicated or notify your employer that you're a "hater". That's not my job nor my aim.

I don't get it. It's almost a compliment that they care enough to wish to terminate my existence or silence me or something. But I don't get it. Sure, this stuff is important to me, but, let's face it, important to me and precious few other people. My writings against changing the definition of marriage or recognizing that the Bible clearly considers homosexual behavior as sin or that God's Word is understandable and authoritative are neither new nor accepted in the main today. So? Most won't care. Maybe in the not-too-distant future the government will classify people like me who believe in classical, historical, orthodox Christianity as "domestic terrorists". Maybe not. I won't worry about it. I'll just shake my head and feel badly for that very select crowd who hovers about ready to explain where I'm wrong. Seems like a waste of energy without any real value. But that's not my problem, is it?

Friday, October 23, 2015

What Does That Get You?

I am a firm believer in the Sovereignty of God. I believe that "God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28) I believe that "none can stay His hand or say to Him, 'What have you done?'" (Dan 4:35) I am convinced that "He does all that He pleases." (Psa 115:3) I am sure that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father (Matt 10:31). I have confidence that He is "the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords." (1 Tim 6:15) Why? Well ... because that's what I see in Scripture (and in far more places than I just listed).

To be honest, however, it is much bigger than that. You see, we live in an uncertain world. I don't say that because of the times or culture in which we live. I say that because it has always been thus. You never know when a tree will fall on you or a storm wipe you out or some lunatic driver will run you off the road or cancer will threaten your existence ... to make a small start at a nearly infinite list. You never know. In this uncertain world, then, you have to have a lever, some means of maintaining sanity. Maybe it's insurance or avoidance (which itself sometimes borders on insanity). Very popular is the "see no evil" approach with that elephant in the room. "If I don't look, it can't touch me." But all these strategies seem to fall short. For me it's God's Sovereignty.

What does that get me? It doesn't guarantee a happy life. It doesn't insure me against unpleasant things. I doesn't make sure I won't get mistreated or sick or fired or whatever other bad things might happen. So ... what does it get me? If it doesn't guarantee a comfortable, pleasant life, why is it a good thing?

I believe, like the hymn says, "Jesus doeth all things well." If I believe that God is genuinely Sovereign over all things and that God is genuinely good, I can have complete confidence that the tough times I face in life are just as good as the pleasant things that I experience. I can be equally sure that the death in the family is God's good will just as much as an offer of a better job or the birth of a grandchild. I can rejoice always (1 Thess 5:16). I can pray with confidence (1 Thess 5:17). I can actually give thanks in every circumstance (1 Thess 5:18). Seriously, if God is for me, who can be against me?

Others with their "almost sovereign" God baffle me. When "bad things" happen, they're stuck with "Oh, God didn't plan that; it's the world or the devil or just an accident or ..." And I cannot fathom how that is a positive. I don't derive comfort from "God didn't plan that". I wouldn't be able to maintain very well in a "hands-off God" world.

What does it get me to believe in an Absolute Sovereign God? Well, on one hand it allows me to point to Scripture and say, "That's what I see there." I like it when I can say that what I believe is what I see in God's Word. On the other hand, pleasant or unpleasant, I can have complete confidence that nothing but good will be allowed to happen in my life. Therefore, I can rejoice in whatever may befall. Sanity. That's what it gets me. That's a good thing.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

When They Get It Wrong

This is a serious question. I'm not at all clear on this. Someone help me out. I read this article over at American Principles Project calling for Constitutional resistance. I'm neither defending nor opposing it. I'm just wondering. It made me think. We have a Constitution and our system of government is built on it. What happens when it fails?

Here, I'll just pull up a theoretical example not to discuss the example, but to illustrate the problem. Let's say that the Constitution says that all persons have the right to life. Like I said, a theoretical example. And then let's say that ... oh, I don't know ... the Supreme Court of the United States, the final word on what is "constitutional", determines that certain babies are not "persons" and, therefore, are not afforded that protection. Now, it would seem obvious that this is a mistake. Something has gone wrong. There is an error here. Indeed, "error" is too trivial a term. Lives are being lost because this court system failed to uphold the Constitution. Or say, as another hypothetical, the States vote to define ... let's say as an example ... "marriage" not in a new way, but in the way that everyone has always defined it in all of history. But when this same Supreme Court of the United States examines the question, they consciously determine that "equal protection" from the Constitution means "We get to redefine this term as we think and then change it for all the States by judicial fiat." Now, it would seem obvious that the framers of the Constitution never had this in mind. I don't think anyone would argue that when they passed the 14th Amendment in 1868 anyone back then would have thought, "So this means that marriage will not mean 'the union of a man and a woman' and will now be changed to something different and be protected by this amendment." (I doubt you could find someone 50 years ago who would have thought such a thing.) So it would seem painfully obvious that something has gone off the tracks here ... you know ... in this hypothetical example.

So here's the question. What happens now? We have on one hand the Constitution of the United States with its Amendments and all its original intent, and on the other hand you have bizarre rulings and interpretations by modern courts that say, "No, it doesn't mean what it clearly meant when they wrote it. Now it means something different and you can't say anything about it." What happens now? What recourse is there? It would appear to be a breakdown in the system. How is it to be mended? When the Executive Branch does something, the Legislative and Judicial Branches are there to check and correct it. The same with the Legislative Branch. The Executive and Judicial Branches should check and correct them. But if the Judicial Branch fails miserably and declares as law of the land that "You will all need to erase the original intent of what was written from your memories and now submit to our new version", what corrective is available?

Clearly the Kim Davis approach wouldn't work. Right or wrong, there was no chance that "I'm standing on my Constitutional rights" was going to defend her against the authorities. Ask anyone who has ever said, "I'm sorry; I can't participate in your same-sex ceremony. But here is a list of others who can." Down in flames, professionally and personally. So standing on principle may be commendable and even right, but it won't necessarily fix a thing. What is the right course of action to take to fix the stupidity that is foisted on us by a Supreme Court that has the final word on reality (or not)?

Again, I'm not asking about "How do we fix these hypothetical situations?" I'm asking about the general principle. When the Judicial Branch goes whacky, what recourse is there? When the Judicial Branch falls off the tree and the Legislative Branch doesn't seek to correct it and the Executive Branch was already there to catch it, what is the proper corrective? Maybe an easier question is ... is there a proper corrective? Or are we just stuck with what we have?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Abortion Legislation

And you thought we were making progress?

California's Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that requires crisis pregnancy centers, including those run by Christians aimed at offering alternatives to killing babies, to provide information on "the full range of low-cost or free reproductive services available under state law, including contraception and abortion." The law goes into effect in January. "Oh," California says, "you can offer alternatives to killing babies, but you'll have to advertise low-cost or free ways to murder them, too. We don't much care about that whole Planned Parenthood fiasco or the rights of the unborn. Nor do we care about your religious freedoms when it runs counter to our sexual proclivities." Apologies to the many Californians I know who sharply disagree. We'll see how this plays out in the courts.

The Bible Embellished

I sat in a class of genuine, Bible-affirming, Bible-believing, gentle, godly Christians. The class was on an overview of Scripture, starting with Genesis. Today's lesson was from Genesis 11. You remember that one. It's about the Tower of Babel. Well, there's a lot of stuff in there. You know, things like where it happened ("a plain in the land of Shinar") and why it happened ("Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.") and what happened ("'Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.") (Gen 11:1-8) That kind of stuff.

I was fascinated as the teacher and members of the class discussed the text. "It's clearly," they assured me, "about their idolatry. You see, archaeologists have found the Tower of Babel and saw that it had astrological symbols on it, so they were worshiping the stars." ("But ..." I thought, "that's not what it says.") "It says they wanted to make a name for themselves. It's a sin to make a name for yourself." ("Now, hold on a minute ..." is going through my head, "is that what it's saying?") Someone asked where the people in China came from. (I was confused. "Doesn't this say that they were dispersed ... from here?) Another said, "I used to wonder the same thing, just like where Cain got his wife. Then I realized that God didn't only make Adam and Eve." ("Okay, now that is problematic if Scripture is wrong when it declares that we are all descended from Adam, that sin entered the world through Adam.")

Just a couple weeks before they were on the Flood. They kept repeating the truism that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark. Did you know that I can't find that anywhere? I found where God said of Man "His days will be 120 years" (Gen 6:3), but no other reference to even hint that it took Noah that long to build the ark. In fact, I read that Noah was 500 years old when he fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen 5:32) and that he was 600 when the flood began (Gen 7:6). Now, if God's initial covenant with Noah included his wife and his sons and their wives (Gen 6:18), it would seem most likely that it took him less than 100 years to build this ark since his sons were already born and, in fact, married when he started.

Now, mind you, I'm not complaining about these people. I'm simply pointing to what seems to be a natural tendency to ... embellish. We'll take an idea, even a biblical one, and then we'll ... build it up. Oh, you know what I mean. You've probably heard and maybe even believe, for instance, that in the case of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus bent down and wrote the sins of the people around Him and that was why they left (John 8:6-9). Oh, it's not in there. Not at all. But it has been told so many times that it is assumed by many. Perhaps you've heard that smoking is a sin because it says so in the Bible. That verse would be "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?" (1 Cor 6:19) Sounds definitive until you actually read the topic -- sexual sin. And until you actually think about it. I mean, if you are not supposed to do anything unhealthy to your body (the logic of "your body is a temple" in a vacuum), then eating Twinkies and living in a place with polluted air are equally sinful. But we've embellished it and for many it is a direct command not to smoke cigarettes. Or how about this one? Did you know that the Bible does not say that Jesus died on a Friday? "What??!! Are you some sort of heretic suggesting that Good Friday was not the day He died?" No, I'm just saying that it's not in the Bible. Other popular ideas you won't find in the Bible include the "three kings". No "three" are mentioned; just three gifts. How about the wisemen who arrive at the manger? Not there. The Bible says when they arrived they went to "the house" (Matt 2:11) (probably a year or two after He was born -- compare Matt 2:7 and Matt 2:16). Just a few examples of how we 1) embellish things we see in Scripture until 2) they become "truth" and "Scripture" and ... are not necessarily so.

It's always interesting to me. People will be glad to latch onto this added content as "from God" will just as willingly reject plain statements in Scripture. Which, in the final analysis, is where I'm going with this. I think it's a mistake -- sometimes a serious mistake -- to add stuff to Scripture and call it "Scripture". I think it is an equally serious mistake to deny Scripture on the basis of prior commitments to something we think or learned or feel. It can be a difficult task, to be sure, to allow God's Word to shape our thinking and perceptions and reasoning in the face of so much that is opposed to it. But the alternative is to deny God's Word. Surely that's a much worse thing to do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ethical Dilemma

I once read a short science fiction story where a scientist created a "planet" of little beings. Okay, not a planet. But a world. In his laboratory. He presented himself to them as far as they could understand as their deity. They lived faster than humans, so he would hand them problems that we have in our world and see what they did to combat them. When they came up with a solution, he would take it and give it to the world. He solved hurricanes and tornadoes. He produced a force field to defend the country. All sorts of interesting and helpful things. Then, one day, he went in to check on them and they were gone. They had set out do destroy their deity who gave them all these problems.

It's an ethical dilemma, even if it is theoretical. Assume the situation. A scientist creates a miniature world with miniature, simplified beings. The beings rebel and set out to destroy the scientist. What is his obligation? What are his rights? Is he obligated to do something on their behalf? Is it immoral to eradicate them as a failed experiment and a threat? What is the ethical thing to do?

We want to hold God to a standard I'm not sure we actually hold. He has to act like our big brother, not our God. He has to act like one of us. We have no qualms about wiping out an entire hive of bees or swarm of ants if they're a problem, but God is not allowed to do that with humans. No, we're important and He would do well to remember it. So, when His creatures rebel and go to war against Him -- creatures that are not gods, but creations -- what are His obligations? What are His rights? Is He required to do something on their behalf? Is it immoral to wipe them from the planet? What is the ethical thing to do?

(And, please note. If "the ethical thing to do" is a higher law than God, then what, really, is God? Certainly not the Highest, is He?)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Questioning Authority

I've done several posts of late around the topic of the Bible as the final authority in matters of faith and practice for the Christian faith. It's probably a good idea to question that authority. No, not whether it is so, but just what it means. Perhaps by fleshing out the concept, it won't be as offensive to many as it seems to be. (Of course, anyone who denies the authority of Scripture will still be offended. Not much I can do about that.)

Perhaps it might be helpful to start with what it does not mean. There seems to be much confusion here. It does not mean that only the Bible contains truth or that all that is true is contained in the Bible. Scriptures tell us, for instance, that "The heavens declare the glory of God." (Psa 19:1) Paul says, "That which is known about God is evident within them (Man); for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Rom 1:19-20) "Sole source of all truth" is not the point. Nor does it mean that there is no other authority. That would simply be a contradiction ... of the Bible. The church has authority (Matt 18:15-18). Church leadership has authority (Heb 13:17). Human government has authority (Rom 13:1-5). Husbands have authority (Eph 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-2). Parents have authority (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20). Even masters have authority (Eph 6:5-7; Col 3:22-25). Indeed, there is a biblical hierarchy of authority (1 Cor 11:3). Sola scriptura does not mean "no other authority".

Many people complain because "Well, it sure wasn't the sole authority in Moses's day. I mean, when Paul wrote, 'All Scripture is God-breathed', he surely wasn't talking about what he was writing. That wasn't Scripture yet. They only had the Old Testament and that wasn't the sole authority." So I need to point out that it also doesn't mean "Always has been". The actual ultimate authority is God. If you deny that, you're simply proving the original problem of sin. God has always been the authority and will always continue to be. So when God verbally spoke to Israel, they didn't need a transcript, a council meeting, and a declaration of "This is Scripture" to consider it authoritative. It was authoritative because God said it. For Christianity, up to the end of the writing of the canon of Scripture, the primary authority structure was God -> Christ -> the Apostles and Prophets, where "the Apostles" were actually on hand and "the Prophets" were available by existing Scripture. At the end of the Apostles, we were left with the same structure -- God -> Christ -> the Apostles and Prophets -- with the exception that we no longer had the Apostles present. They were found in Scripture. So that is the current authority hierarchy: God -> Christ -> the Apostles and Prophets (as found in the Scriptures). After that, there are other sources of truth and other designated authority structures.

This concept of the authoritative nature of the Word is not foreign to the Word. Indeed, it is all through the Bible. "What was written" was the authority from the earliest writings. Moses wrote down the law (Deut 31:9) "so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law." (Deut 31:12) God told Joshua, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." (Josh 1:8) Israel was constantly called to "do all that is written in the book" (Josh 23:6), to "Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God as it is written in this book of the covenant" (2 Kings 23:21), to return to "what is written" (2 Chron 35:12; Ezra 3:2; Neh 10:34, etc., etc., etc.). Do a search sometime and see how many times Jesus referenced "it is written", including the repeated use of the phrase in His trial with Satan in the desert. The Gospel writers often referred, as proof of the truth, to what was written (e.g., Matt 2:15, 18; Mark 1:2; Luke 2:23; John 12:14-15). My Bible is quite helpful in this regard because every quote from the Old Testament used as proof or reference in the New Testament is capitalized ... and there are a lot. It just keeps going. Timothy was told to persevere through persecutions and impostors by remembering "the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim 3:12-15) It's all through Scripture. What is? Scripture is all through Scripture, relying on Scripture to support Scripture and God's Word to back up God's Word.

What is the ultimate authority? Well, of course, it is God. Not you. Not me. Not your feelings or even my reasoning capacities. It is God. And in Israel's days of theocracy or the Apostle's days of direct connection with God, it was not only Scripture. It was God. What we have today, however, is God as He speaks in His Word. If God is the final authority and He has expressed Himself in His Word, then you have the actual reason for the position of sola scriptura. God, speaking to us through His Word, is the ultimate authority. Do we not use our brains? Well, of course we do. But the aim, the point, the real purpose here is "What does God say?" followed by "Yes, Lord." And this isn't a simple reasoning project. If Jesus was correct, we have the Holy Spirit to lead us into that truth. Thus, there is tradition and the church and history and the Communion of the Saints, a consensus of sorts from the beginning that affirms all the essentials with all who hear His Word whispered by the Spirit. So? So when you hear, "You know what? The Church for 2,000 years has been entirely and completely wrong on this point and you have figured out by your fine reasoning skills and simple logic what is really true," you can be fairly sure it's not the Spirit speaking to you through the Word of God. And if you hear, "Your reasoning is the final authority over Scripture", you can be rightly suspicious that it sounds very much like the voice that asked Eve, "Did God say ...?"

Sunday, October 18, 2015


We all know that word, right? "Providence". Sure, it's the capital of Rhode Island but more often it is used to reference God's foreseeing care for His creation. Sometimes it's just another word for God.

Wait ... why did I say, "God's foreseeing care"? Well, that's interesting, isn't it? You see, the word has its roots in Latin. It's a two-part word where prō means "before" and vidēre ... well, we get our word "video" from that one. It means "to see". The origin of the word "providence", then, is "to see before." In fact, it originally meant "to prepare beforehand" in English.

It was common in older times for people to routinely referred to "Providence" both as a term for God and His foreseeing care. It might seem simplistic (and it might even be), but there it is a biblical fact that "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." (James 1:17) As a logical follow up to this statement, James makes this interesting claim: "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures." (James 1:18) "The exercise of His will" is the motive force that provides your very salvation. In fact, "in Him all things hold together." (Col 1:17) Thus, anything that is is a product of God's provision.

If it is true that every good thing is from above, that we owe our very existence to God's kindness and power, and that our very salvation is predicated on His will, God is indeed Providence, the One who foresees what we need and provides it. That may be pleasurable; it may not. But He is always right, this One we call "Providence". Did you eat today? Thank Providence. Are you wearing clothes? Thank Providence. Do you have water, a roof over your head, breath? Thank Providence. "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (1 Thess 5:18)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Gun Control

People are dying. Daily. At the end of a gun. Adults and kids, innocents and criminals, cops and robbers. So there is a rally cry: "Gun control!" Because that, dear reader, is the answer. That will solve this problem.

Four high school students were arrested for planning to "shoot and kill as many people as possible" at their local high school. Add them up. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Umpqua Community College ... on and on. Too many people are dying from guns. We can fix this. Ban guns! I mean, don't studies show that eliminating guns will drastically reduce gun deaths? Well, duh! But a study from Harvard suggests that banning firearms may not be the answer.

I'm thinking that we don't really know the question, so finding answers might be difficult. An article in Salon argues that it's "our toxic white male culture of violence." Ah, yes, that is likely the problem. White males. "The overwhelming white maleness of these school shooters is not inconsequential, because it means they fall into the statistically defined parameters of the typical American gun owner who, is Protestant, white, and male, and holds conservative political views." Okay, good! So, rather than gun control, perhaps we just need to control white males. Specifically religious white males. At least the conservative ones. Because, as we all know, the primary offenders in shootings are overwhelmingly white male Protestant conservatives. Don't we?

Others argue that it's things like bullying, except too many of the people doing the spree shootings are not targeting their bullies; they're just killing. There have been more than one of these killers who did it simply for the notoriety. Kill someone and you get known. So maybe "bully control" isn't the answer. And I can't imagine "fame control".

So, there are all sorts of controls we might exert. Paula Young Lee of that Salon article suggests "the most powerful weapon in this war is the kind of education that doesn’t come from the internet, but books you have to read. For school." So let's make a deeper and yet more selective education the answer. Or bully control. Or white male conservative control. Or gun control. Do what you want. Because I doubt that we as a society are going to actually come up with the right solution when we don't know what the problem is.

This was Jesus's idea of the problem. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander." (Matt 15:19) A heart problem. Murder comes not from the availability of guns or the presence of mean people or the fact that you are a white, conservative, Protestant male. It comes from a heart that exchanges the glory of God for creation (Rom 1:23) and does not "see fit to acknowledge God" (Rom 1:28). It is nourished by "a debased mind" that not only engages in murder, strife, deceit and all, but gives approval to those who do (Rom 1:28-32). Control guns all you want. It doesn't fix the problem.

In the end, I'm not writing about gun control. Or bully control or the elimination of white male Christians. You guys can fight that out among yourselves. What we need is an act of God on the hearts of people around us. That takes place when God's messengers take God's message to those who need it (Rom 10:13-15). You can go ahead with whatever mechanisms you like, but until hearts change, mechanisms will just keep failing. I'd much rather work on something that works.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Christian Foundation

"You know," they tell me, "the Bible disagrees with you about the Bible being the authority."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes! Look at 1 Timothy 3."
If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth." (1 Tim 3:15)
Game, set, match. The Bible disagrees that the Bible is the primary authority in the Christian faith and practice. We can all go home now.

But wait! Are we claiming that the Bible teaches that the church of the living God is the final authority in matters of faith and practice? Well, of course, the Roman Catholics are (or something like it), but what about the rest of us? (Truth is, none of those who argue against sola scriptura will argue that the Church is the sole authority in matters of faith and practice ... even though that Scripture seems to say so.) I mean, if we're going to see the Bible as authoritative (even if not the final authority), don't we have to agree with the Catholics? Well, no, not if we're biblical.

Why? Well, consider Paul's words to the church at Ephesus.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone." (Eph 2:19-20)
There's that "household of God" thing again. So, starting with agreement that "the household of God which is the church of the living God" is in view as "the pillar and buttress of the truth", to what is Paul referring? Paul says that the foundation of the church is "the apostles and prophets" with "Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone." So the "household of God" that Paul references in his letter to Timothy is "the church" and the church is not founded in thin air. It is set true by the cornerstone, Christ, and founded on the apostles and prophets ... which we have in Scripture. So the foundation of the church which has authority is Christ and the Scriptures. Thus, the ultimate authority -- the bedrock of Christianity -- is Christ and the Scriptures.

Oh, didn't see that coming.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


It's a new term, a merging of "phone" and "snubbing" to indicate ways that we snub people with our phone usage. Researchers at Baylor University have found that our use of phones these days can actually be leading to higher levels of depression and ruined relationships. And I'm thinking, "Well ... duh."

I know. Lots of people disagree with me. "We're more connected now than ever," they tell me. I don't think so. It's not what I see. Here's what I see.

Shallow interactions
We may have more immediate interactions with smartphones and social media, but they appear to be far shallower than anything prior. We thrive on abbreviation. Shorter time, less depth, expressions in soundbites limited to 140 characters, that kind of thing. This leaves lots of room for "LOL" and "Good job!" or, more likely, "That's stinks!" (without, of course, being as kind as using the word "stinks"). It leaves little room for nuance, careful consideration, or explanation -- depth. I'm finding that more and more people are looking at more and more stuff with less and less attention. As an example, I wrote an email to a supervisor that detailed all the (impossible) tasks that would have to be completed in order to finish the assignment. I concluded, "I don't believe it can be done." The response was, "Good! Get right on it!" Because the reader scanned the email to see a list of things to do, not the fact that they were impossible. Inattention.

We're all about multitasking today. So we're talking and driving or texting and driving. We're in a class or a meeting or a conversation or even church while we cruise the Internet with our "smart" phone or iPad. We're amusing our kids with the devices while we do the "important" stuff. The problem, of course, is that multitasking is a lie. It can't be done. The human brain can work on one thing at a time. Not more. So when we multitask, we work on one thing and then another thing and then another thing for brief time frames. It is distraction and lack of focus, resulting in none of them getting done well.

The Internet thrives on anonymity. We use fake names and fake images and demand that the government not get involved in any regulation precisely because we want to be able to remain anonymous. Why? So that we can be unaccountable. If no one knows who we are, we can say what we want and not have consequences. Even when they know who we are, there is still a sense of distance over smartphones and Internet chats and even video chats. I mean, if you say something mean to someone on the other end of the line, they are certainly not going to haul off and smack your face, are they? No. They can't. So we thrive on this impersonalization at the same time that we assure ourselves that we're "more connected."

Electronic Christianity
Having convinced ourselves that being connected over a phone or a computer is the very same thing as in person -- maybe better -- it is a very short hop to electronic Christianity. Sure, we need to fellowship. Isn't that what I'm doing when I read my friend's Facebook account of how God blessed her? And tell her, "Praise God"? I mean, why go to church when I have Twitter? Why do I need "organized religion" when I can be so spiritual watching sermons online? And we end up with electronic Christianity.

The end of a language
One of the things that is of particular concern to me is the damage to language. When LOL and BTW mean more than "propitiation", we are clearly losing a sense of the language. Limited as electronic interactions are, we tend toward shortcuts. As such, the most effective interactions are at the emotional level rather than the exchange of ideas. So we operate in abbreviations, emoticons, and pithy exchanges with a generation that no longer knows what's wrong with "I like this better then that" or can tell the difference between "they're", "there", or "their" (or whether "their" is spelled with an "ie" or "ei"). Our "connectedness" is killing the language.

Maybe our modern version of communication with smartphones and Internet has its advantages. I'm not sure what they are. But I'm pretty sure that we are not more connected than ever. Want proof? I bet very few actually made it to this paragraph. Why? Because Microsoft tells us that the average smartphone user attention span has fallen below that of goldfish. Researchers clocked the average human attention span at just 8 seconds in 2013, falling 4 seconds from the 12-second average in 2000, a second less than a goldfish. So this post was TLDR -- "too long; didn't read." And that is "more connected"? I think not.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's Raining

I've been having some trouble with persecution of Christians. Oh, no, not that I'm being taken to prison or fed to lions. I mean with the concept, nay, the word.

You see, when we think of "persecution of Christians", we think of Peter crucified upside down or Paul in prison in Rome or the martyrs of the early church in the Coliseum fed to lions or burned to death and the like. In that sense, of course, Christians in America are not undergoing persecution. They tell me that in the 20th century more Christians were put to death for their faith than in all other centuries combined. American Christians are not undergoing that kind of persecution.

On the other hand, Jesus used phrases like "insult" and "revile" and "falsely accuse" to describe what He classified as "persecution". So who am I to tap Jesus on the shoulder and say, "Um, Lord, You keep using that word; I do not think it means what You think it means"?

Then I came up with a parallel to help explain. I saw the news about rain in South Carolina. "1,000 year flood," they called it. They got 25 inches of rain in places. Flooding, destruction, death. Bad stuff. I mean, 2 feet of rain. That would definitely be classified as "flooding rains". And yet last year around this same time we here in Arizona got hit by the remnants of a hurricane. It dropped 2-4" of rain in 6 hours1, completely flooded main freeways, submerged neighborhoods ... well, many of the very same symptoms that South Carolina was seeing. "The wettest day on record," they called it. But ... it was only 4". "You call that rain?" I can hear South Carolinans asking.

It is a guarantee. All who wish to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). Count on it. Of course, you can keep in mind that "persecuted" is relative. It might entail being executed for your faith. Or tortured. Or ... other awful things. Jesus called being reviled or maligned being persecuted (Matt 5:10-11). So in some places people die and in others they lose their businesses and livelihood. On either end of the spectrum, it's rain and it hurts. So remember the proper response.
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt 5:12)

"I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." (Luke 6:27-28)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Rom 12:14)
Whether it's 25" or 4". You may not be comfortable calling 4" of rain a problem. That's fine. The correct response is still to bless them and pray for them and do good to them. Neither the Lordship of Christ nor our relationship with Him is dependent upon our churches retaining their tax-exempt status or our maintaining our perceived legal rights or comfortable lives. The Gospel nor God's glory are dependent on us being treated nice. So I'm not arguing, "Run for your lives! It's all persecution!" I'm simply suggesting you rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, "persecution" or not.
1The rain gauge at my house showed 6".

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sola Scriptura is Not Biblical

The first argument against the primary authority of Scripture is this very interesting argument. It is often misused, like, "The Trinity is not a valid doctrine because you won't find the word in the Bible." But in this case, the argument that "The Bible is the sole authority in matters of faith and doctrine" would actually seem to need to be found in Scripture in order to be valid. Else the naked claim is the first authority. So, is it true that the claim is not found in Scripture?

If you're looking for "This Word of God is the sole authority in matters of faith and practice", you can find it in the Old Testament in Hezekiah 7:13 and in the New Testament in 3 Peter 2:6. If you're paying attention, I just made a joke. The phrase doesn't exist. (If you didn't get the joke, perhaps arguing about the Bible as sole authority should come some time later ... after you've looked more closely at the Bible.) But because the sentence isn't there doesn't mean that the argument isn't there.

Note, for instance, Paul's words in his first letter to the church at Corinth. "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sake, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other." (1 Cor 4:6) "Learn not to exceed what is written." That is precisely what the claim is. But, perhaps you will argue, "He's only talking about a specific letter" or something like it. Okay. How about this claim?
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)1
"That makes no such claim to authority or sole authority." Doesn't it? It says that all Scripture is breathed out by God. Nothing else -- not the Church nor Tradition nor your hunches, your "common sense", your experiences, nor your societal norms -- are classified as "God-breathed". It says that Scripture will make the man of God "equipped". The King James says "thoroughly furnished". The word is ἐξαρτίζω -- exartizō. It means to furnish fully, to equip, to finish. This passage claims that all Scripture will equip the man of God for ... what? "Every good work." Not some. Not most. Every. The Bible makes the claim that the Bible alone will equip/furnish/finish the man of God for good works.

If you want more, look at the approach of Scripture. How many times did Jesus refer people in His teachings to Scripture? How many times did He say, "It is written" or "Have you not read" or other references to Scripture as authority? How many times did other writers refer to the Scriptures as proof of their claim? Indeed, when the heretical Marcion who argued that the Old Testament was no longer valid assembled his own Bible, he ended up with stripped versions of the Gospel of Luke and Paul's writings because everything was predicated on the Scriptures.

Conversely, following tradition over Scripture is not a new problem. Jesus warned against it. He told the Pharisees, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition." (Mark 7:9) He pointed back to Isaiah when He said, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Mark 7:6-7) Modern groups are doing it today -- Tradition over Scripture. On the other hand, the Bible commends the Bereans who "were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica" because they "received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11) Was Paul's teachings as an Apostle of the Church authoritative? Yes, but only so far as they aligned with Scripture.

"So," you may ask, "you're saying that Tradition and the Church have no authority?" No, that's not what I'm saying because that's not what I believe. I understand sola scriptura to say that the ultimate authority, the final authority for all matters of faith and practice is found in Scripture. That does not mean that there is no other authority. For instance, Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica telling them, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us." (2 Thess 3:6) Thus, "the tradition which you received from us" was considered normative, not extraneous. But it couldn't contradict Scripture. In a similar way, we are told, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Heb 13:17) As such, both tradition (lowercase "t") and the church have authority. I don't wish to argue that they don't. I'm just saying that their authority is subject to Scripture. And I'm just saying that I get that ... from Scripture.
1 Note: That's the ESV. It makes the point clear that we're not talking about "inspired writing", but "God-breathed". If you can point to anything else that is reliably classified as "God-breathed", you might have a contender for authority.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sola Scriptura No!

The standard position of many Christians is sola scriptura, even if they don't know it. The phrase means "only Scripture" and is the position that Scripture is the sole authority in matters of faith and practice. To put it another way, the Bible contains all that is required for salvation and godly living. Well, mostly another way to put it, because there is another element in the idea -- exclusion.

You see, the Roman Catholics have a different idea. They have a three-pronged structure, where Scripture, the Church, and Tradition are the three authorities. Not one. Thus, one of the reasons that the Reformation put forth this sola scriptura notion was that the Roman Catholics had a problem -- their three authorities contradicted each other. So which was authoritative?

Today, of course, there are more alternatives available. We can throw in Science. (That's with a capital "S" because in this application it is somewhat ... divine.) The Bible may say X, but if Science denies X, then the Bible is wrong and Science is right. Oh, sure, the good Christian folk on this wagon might say, "The Bible isn't wrong! It's just ..." and then they'll fill in "misunderstood" or "myth" or something like that. You know, "The Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth, but Science tells us that it occurred by natural means -- Big Bang, Evolution, that kind of stuff -- so clearly the Bible wasn't patently true when it described God creating the world." Science: 1; Bible: 0.

We can throw in Modernity. Back then they thought Y, but our Modern Society knows better. Clearly Y is false. So when God instituted rules on, say, homosexual sex, He didn't have the benefit of our much better Modern Society and its views about sexual orientation and gender identity. These are a horse of a different color. That clears it all up. God and the Bible were wrong. Modernity: 1; Bible: 0.

I'm almost amused at the way that some vague entity popularly known as "Common Sense" gets into this, too. I'm fairly convinced that "Common Sense" is just as real as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, but, hey, who am I to say? Coupled with Philosophy and Experience, these two gain substantial superiority over biblical authority. "Yes, yes, Paul claims that there is none who does good, but we know better. Common Sense tells us that this just isn't true." And "The Bible tries to display God as absolute Sovereign, but simply logic will tell you that Free Will requires that God not be absolute Sovereign or Free Will doesn't exist." And Sovereignty disappears in a puff of logic. Common Sense, Experience, and Philosophy: 1; Bible: 0.

Turns out the Bible appears to be pretty low on the list. As it turns out, in fact, there seems to be a common thread here. Just about anything can outweigh the Bible for authority. The goal appears to be a host of authorities ... far more than the supposed three held by the Roman Catholics. No one offers any real reasons for these alternative authorities or any hierarchy for them. The Catholics have contradictions between their three. You can only imagine the contradictions between the Bible and the rest of these self-made authorities. What about the contradictions among this multiplicity? Which one(s) win? I guess your own choice of authority will determine that. (Rest assured it won't be the Bible.)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Worship Leaders

I'm sure you've heard the term, "worship leader". That would be the guy (or girl) who stands in front of the church on Sunday (or Saturday or ...) and leads us in worship, right? Oh, but they're much more than that. They take us into the presence of God. They mold our feelings to make us feel warmly toward God (which some equate with "love God"). Now, of course, these worship leaders vary in approach. Some think that a bunch of 7-11's (the same 7 words sung 11 times) do the best job, and others want to use "loud clashing cymbals" and "joyful noise" to get you stirred up. But they have the same goal in mind. To get you to feel right toward God. But I wonder ...

Why is it that in growing numbers the "worship leader" is the best musician we can find? Not a theologian. Not a pastor. A musical talent. Why? It makes me wonder if we know what worship is.

Worship is not a cool, well-executed concert by a hot band singing "Christian lyrics". Or, at least, somewhat "Christian lyrics". It is not a warm feeling toward God. Worship is not even that musical portion of the church service that is led by "worship leaders". What is worship? Worship is the response of the believer to what God says and is. It is the response of the whole believer -- body, soul, spirit ... mind, will, emotions. Thus, self-sacrifice is "your reasonable service of worship" (Rom 12:1). And worship includes all facets of your being to all facets of God's being. Thus, worship apart from God's Word is severely anemic ... since what God says is a key component of why we worship. Worship -- "assigning worth-ship" -- of God is only possible through Christ (Rev 5:9-10). It is our response to God. We "lift Him up", not making Him higher, but making sure everyone can see the glory we've seen. Worship's fundamental purpose is the same fundamental purpose that all of life should have -- to glorify God. (This should put a serious crimp in the "performance" aspect of what passes these days for "worship services" in many churches. It is to glorify God, not your really impressive singing and playing skills.) Worship is about God at the center, not about us.

"So, you're saying that music has nothing to do with worship?" I can hear some ask, and the question might be from either side of the aisle. Some don't want that raucous racket in their church and others are arguing that style doesn't matter. I would have to disagree ... with both. I'm not saying music doesn't matter. I'm saying the opposite -- everything matters. Worship isn't what happens before the pastor preaches. In fact, worship without the preaching is incomplete worship. We know the preacher will need the Holy Spirit to guide his preaching, but the Holy Spirit will also need to guide the music ... and the offering and the announcements and ... everything. Worship is not about performance, but it is offering my best to God for His glory.

Worship is fundamentally our response to God. That is, we're at the bottom; He's at the top. Questions like "Does this glorify God?" and "Does this focus us on Him?" are key ... in all of worship (which we now realize is not the singing portion of a church service). Second to these types of question with God in clear focus are the "Does this focus others on God?" Not "Look at me! I'm a singer!" No, it's pastors and teachers and worship leaders and each and every member of the congregation pointing heads and hearts toward God. And it only starts on Sunday. It's an all-week affair. At least, real worship is.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Those Who Do Not Learn from History

You'd think, after all this time, we wouldn't have these difficulties. You'd think that, these questions and complaints having already been addressed, we could move on to bigger and better. If you did, you'd think wrong.

Perhaps the best known heresy, even if you don't know you know it, is the heresy of legalism. The Bible talks a lot about that one. In fact, Paul's epistle to the church at Galatia was specifically written to address that heresy. He outlines the problem with this question: "Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?" (Gal 3:2) In this epistle Paul tells of how he actually rebuked the Apostle Peter for this error (Gal 2:11-14). Legalism actually sounds right. Be good; go to heaven. In Paul's day it had a Jewish twist. "Be circumcised and observe Jewish law and you'll go to heaven." But it still hangs around today. In fact, it's almost inescapable. It is the human way of thinking on the subject. Be good; go to heaven. Over against this we have the stark, opposing notion that salvation is accomplished by God (Gal 3:3). There are churches in America today that affirm that we're "saved by faith" while clutching in their other hand the certainty that if you drink alcohol, go to a dance, or engage in "mixed swimming" (males and females swimming in the same location), you're certain to go to Hell. There's a contradiction there. The Roman Catholic theology includes both concepts -- "saved by faith" and "meritorious salvation". You're saved by faith to start with, but from there you're going to have to earn it. And you'd better not commit a "mortal sin". It plays to standard human religion. Biblically, it is heresy.

Ever hear of the Laelius Socinus and his nephew, Faustus Socinus? No, probably not. From 16th century Poland, their doctrines -- Socinianism -- strayed from the existing ones into something new and, well, not improved. The Church already dealt with the Trinity question ... multiple times ... but Socinianism was quite sure that God was one, the "Holy Spirit" was simply a reference to His power (not a person), and Jesus? Oh, he (lowercase "H") was just a man. Oh, a deified man, but still not divine in nature. He wasn't pre-existent (John 1:1; Heb 1:8-12). The Socinians were the first of the "Open Theists", denying God's Omniscience. God, they said, only knew "necessary truths" and not necessarily what would might to pass ("contingent truths") (Psa 33:11; Isa 14:24; Isa 46:10). The Socinians rejected the propitiatory concept of atonement. Christ didn't die to satisfy the demands of a just God. No, He died as an example, encouraging us by example to abandon our sins (2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13; Isa 53:10; . No, God didn't need any appeasement; He just ... forgave. "No, no," they argued, "you can't have sin paid for and forgiven." (Rom 3:26) Despite the violation of so many Scriptures on matters like the Trinity, the true nature of God (including His Omniscience), the deity of Christ, and the Atonement, you'll still find these same errors today. It turns out that lots of people, even counting themselves as Christians, believe that God forgives out of love, not satisfaction. Somehow His love overcame His justice and we end up with mercy and forgiveness. There is no small contingent of self-professed Christians who claim that God cannot know everything. There are Unitarians and Open Theists and "Oneness Pentecostals", Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, and even pantheists, where God is "in all", all seeming to slice off their favorite pieces of the Socinian heresy and all failing to recognize that it is heresy.

Take Marcionism. Marcion argued that the God of the Old Testament was an angry, legalistic God not at all like the God of the New Testament. The Old Testament, therefore, was out and with it the law. Marcion built his own Bible, eliminating the Old Testament (which Christ viewed as Scripture) and editing New Testament books to eliminate Old Testament references. (Marcion's heresy pushed the Church into starting the whole canonization process.) Modern Marcionists include Pauline Dispensationalists who wish to eliminate the Old Testament as well as many closet Marcionists who "don't like that angry God of the Old Testament very much." They practice various arts like mythologizing or trivializing the Old Testament because, for instance, "God would never order the execution of men, women, and children like it says He did." Substituting a "better god" for the genuine, they consider themselves above all that. Modern Marcionism; modern heretics.

Consider Sabellianism. Later "Modalism", this argued that there was no Trinity. The first "God" we see is "Father" who later is expressed as "Son" and eventually is shown as "Spirit". (This, of course, is extremely problematic when Scripture refers to two or three existing and interacting at once.) Today's Sabellians (or, more likely, modalists) prefer to stip off the Trinity than accept it as we find it in the pages of Scripture. Popular preachers like T.D. Jakes and the United Pentecostal Church hang onto this. With the warm-sounding "Oneness Pentecostalism" name applied, they deny historical orthodox Trinitarianism. They like the "ice/water/steam" parallel of "the Trinity" (which is a parallel of modalism, not the Trinity). Simply put, if the Trinity is not the biblically orthodox position, Christianity cannot stand.

One of the most famous heresies was Arianism. Arius argued that Jesus was not God. He was a created being and certainly did not pre-exist creation. He was of similar substance as God, but not the same substance. This one was the reason for the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD which brought us the Nicean Creed. (It's also the one where Santa Claus slugged Arius.) (Note: The decision to side against Arius in favor of the doctrine of the Trinity was not a product of Constantine. The decision of the 318 attending bishops was 315 to 3. Oh, and Constantine favored Arius's view. He restored Arius, but the primary opponent, Athanasius, was exiled five time for defending Trinitarian orthodoxy.) The best known modern Arians (as opposed to Aryans -- not the same thing) are the Jehovah's Witnesses. They had to redefine Scripture in order to come to their conclusion. Their favorite "proof" is that John 1:1 actually reads "the Word was a god", not simply "God". This, of course, falls apart when you go two verses down (which they don't reinterpret that states) and read "All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3) So, riddle me this. How can He make all things that were made if He was made? So they deny the Trinity and undercut salvation while replaying the ancient Arian heresy.

And we mustn't forget Pelagianism. This is perhaps the single most popular heresy today. In its earlier origins, it was presented by a fellow named Pelagius that taught that the human will was sufficient to live a life worthy of God's grace. He fundamentally denied that human nature was fallen. Adam's sin was not imputed to the rest of humanity. And the substitutionary atonement? Yeah, that was bunk. Not necessary. (This one was the catalyst for the Council of Carthage in 418 AD.) Are there modern Pelagians? See if this sounds familiar. "Human beings are basically good." Oh, yeah, there are modern Pelagians. I suspect there are more modern Pelagians than all other modern adherents to ancient heretics combined. You'll hear it in the streets and in the government, to be sure, but you'll just as likely hear it in your church as well. One of his most famous adherents, in fact, is a modern saint to many Evangelicals today. Charles Finney wasn't a Pelagian; he was an arch-Pelagian, arguing not only that all people had the ability to be good, but that if you could use the right speeches and music and mood, you could push them in that direction. So we end up with the current de facto position of most of the world. It is the first position natural man takes: "I'm okay. I surely don't need God to be good." It is the standard position from all sides. People are basically good ... which eliminates our need for a Savior ... which eliminates Christ as true. At best, we end up like the church at Laodicea, thinking we're okay when we're not (Rev 3:15-19).

The thing is, all of these heresies have been addressed in Church history. All have been struck down. All have been denounced. And here they are, still functioning today, some with very large proponents. Most of them consider themselves "Christians" when in fact they're heretics. They're not just disagreeing on some minor point. They are undercutting Scripture, orthodoxy, salvation, the nature of God, every essential element of the Christian faith. You'd think they'd learn from history. Unfortunately, too many are doomed to repeat it.

Friday, October 09, 2015

A Christian Nation

President Obama famously assured the public that we "are no longer just a Christian nation." The public sighed a sigh of relief while Christians took offense. Not me. I mean, just what is "a Christian nation"? Surely it's not "a nation that has placed its faith in Christ for its salvation." And, really, no one could genuinely argue that America was or had been for the longest time "a nation that was a disciple of Christ". That is, no standard definition of "Christian" would fit America ... or, to be fair, any nation at all. Since a nation is a political entity and not a human being, a nation cannot be "a Christian".

"Fine, Stan," some are saying, "play at semantics. You know what we mean." Yes, I do. The suggestion is that America is (or was) rooted in values that are predominantly Christian in origin. At least Judeo-Christian. Never mind that a lot of the originators of our country were not Christian themselves. They were still influenced by the vastly predominant Puritans and Pilgrims who came here as Christians for religious freedom. A nation can't be "Christian", but that doesn't mean that its values cannot come from there. At least at one time.

Today we've arrived at the anti-Christian nation. That is, "If you're a Christian, your religion and its values have no place in our laws or values." Mind you, these are not the words used. The words are more like, "We don't allow religion to determine our public laws and values." That was the idea expressed by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision last June. "You may have a religious definition of marriage, but we don't allow it here. We define it." His claim that "religious or philosophical premises" are not legitimate grounds for law or public policy sounded sufficiently secular and neutral. That's what they say. What they mean and what they do, however, is simply substitute their religious or philosophical premises for Christian ones and then claim that no such premises are legitimate. Here, consider the dilemma. The argument is that "religious or philosophical premises" are not legitimate for public values. If this is true, then the only legitimate basis for public values ... is no values. Because values are based on religious or philosophical premises. Further, the method is not only self-refuting, it is also impossible. No one approaches anything without values, religious or philosophical. So in the ruling that redefined marriage we were legislated by judicial fiat based on their religious and/or philosophical values. Welcome to the new American regime.

In a sense, Obama was right. No nation can be "a Christian nation". I hope we're clear on this. In another sense, he is also right in that America is no longer dedicated to values that are rooted in Christianity. But don't let them fool you on this. It does not mean we're a nation of more unbiased, neutral values (or, as some would argue, a nation that has better values than Christian ones). They've simply banned Christianity from influencing American values and substituted a new system ... without any real basis for its values. We're not "neutral". We're lost.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Opinions are like ...

Okay, so here's the claim. "The Bible may be the Word of God and, as such, theoretically infallible, but the best we can ever get is fallible interpretation. That is, all our interpretation of the Bible is fallible interpretation and, therefore, certainly fallible. Thus, the best we get is opinion. You're free to your own opinion, but don't go forcing it on me and don't assume that your opinion is better than anyone else's."

What do you do with that? It is true that humans interpret Scripture and humans are fallible. And it is indisputable that good, serious, well-intentioned, genuine believers will disagree on interpretation. In fact, I doubt if you can find two such people who agree on every point of interpretation for every point in the Bible. So, discarding the kooks, the liberals, those with ulterior motives and anti-Christ agendas, the enemies of God and the opponents of the Truth, we still end up with fallible interpretation at best. Do we therefore conclude that all interpretation, being fallible, is opinion at best and is best kept to yourself? "Believe whatever you're convinced to believe; just don't foist it on me."

In thinking about this, I find it odd that the loudest voices arguing for this line of thinking do so by foisting their opinions on me. They yell, "You're wrong in your interpretation of that passage and you're wrong for telling me I'm wrong." But ... isn't that doing exactly what I'm accused of doing?

Then there's the whole human factor of the original thought. Samuel was a human who, as God's prophet spoke God's Word to Israel in his day. Whatever else he was, he was human and, therefore, fallible. So why would we take his word on it that "The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for He is not a man, that He should have regret." (1 Sam 15:29)? Maybe God does change and Samuel was expressing a fallible, wrong opinion. Why would we assume that Paul was right when he said we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8) but wrong when he claimed "No one does good, not even one." (Rom 3:12)? What makes us think that these fallible humans were properly interpreting what God said any more than we are? And, of course, there is the obvious conclusion. If fallible humans wrote the Bible, even under inspiration, then we should only conclude that it was as infallible as their own interpretations of what God was telling them and, as such, is merely opinion that, at the end, should be just kept to themselves.

At the bottom of this question is the question of the conclusion. Let's grant that even if the Bible is the infallible Word of God, humans are fallible and have fallible interpretation of that infallible Word. Is it true that all we get is mere opinion? And is it true that, granting that all we get is mere opinion, we ought to keep it to ourselves? You see, to me the question isn't "Is it opinion?", but "Is it true?" Think of it from a non-threatening approach. A company is building a bridge over a canyon. The engineers "duke it out" to figure out the best way to do it. Most of them come up with "Plan A". One or two are of the opinion that Plan A isn't safe. If the logic is followed, it is merely their opinion and they ought to keep it to themselves. And if that kills a bunch of people, that's okay because it was their opinion that they should keep to themselves. Or maybe they can state their opinion -- you know, say it but certainly don't push by any means -- and then they're absolved when people die because, as it turned out, their opinion was true. So I ask, "Is it true?" If so, after due diligence and finding sufficient reason for the conclusion, am I obligated to keep my opinion to myself, or is it right/true/loving/caring/kind to express what I have concluded is true in order to avoid harm to others? The claim -- "It's all just opinion so you shouldn't foist it on others" -- would tell me not to do it. I guess I just don't have the cold-heartedness to do that to people.

I'm curious if others have thoughts on this type of claim, but I need to conclude with my conclusions. I affirm that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Further, I believe that, even though we are all fallible, we can all come to true interpretation of God's infallible Word. Some texts are easier than others. Some effort to do so is greater than others. Some disagreement will remain. I believe there is room among believers of the same mind (Phil 2:2) who seek God's truth even in the face of the world's positions for fallible interpretation that produces disagreements on specifics without terminating any sense of ultimate truth. Variations on the details, but unity at the core. But I am convinced that either we have an infallible Word from God with an infallible Intepreter in the Holy Spirit in whom we can end up with reasonable confidence of the truth. Any attempt to relegate it to "mere opinion" is not coming from the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, and those who buy into that line are not being influenced into it by the Godhead. No, that would come from the father of lies.