Like Button

Monday, November 30, 2015

Christian Intellectuals

The question is, "Where are the Christian intellectuals?" Or, rather, a few people are asking it. Because, you see, at the ground level of Christianity many Christians are convinced that intellectualism is bad and "Christian intellectual" is an oxymoron. Add to that the "liberal Christians" who are pretty sure that the answer to the question is "Us, because those darn fundamentalists are dumber than a box of rocks," and you have a pretty bleak situation.

You can understand why some (genuine) Christians might think that intellectualism and Christianity are diametrically opposed. I mean, didn't Paul say, "For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth" (1 Cor 1:26)? So why would you expect there to be those who are wise according to worldly standards? Paul says, "Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor 1:20) So, there you have it. Intellectualism = bad.

Or is it?

It's almost always important to define your terms in a discussion of any disagreement. Intellectualism is defined as "devotion to intellectual pursuits." Indeed, one I read said, "the exercise of the intellect at the expense of the emotions." Nice. Of course, generally when we apply the "ism" to it, it is a philosophical term. In this case it is "the doctrine that knowledge is wholly or chiefly derived from pure reason." On the face of that definition, we would have to agree that knowledge is not wholly derived from pure reason (since Christians believe in divine revelation) and we'd have to go with the "no intellectualism" point of view. Throw in the fact that we're now living in the "Age of Empathy" where reality is determined by feelings, and it looks like we have a unanimous view that intellectualism is bad.

But wait! Is that really how we're defining the term? I think not. (That's a play on words.) I think that when most of us refer to "intellectualism", we're simply referring to "people who use their minds" (as opposed to, say, their emotions or even their faith ... because most seem to think that faith and reason are opposed). At that point I need to ask, "Do you really think that there are no genuine Christians who skillfully use their minds?" J.P. Moreland wrote the book, Love Your God with All Your Mind, a call to do just that. We are supposed to love God with our minds (Matt 22:37). We are supposed to be renewing our minds (Rom 12:2), which means that we acknowledge that sin rots the brain and we work at repairing that damage with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself recognized the value and importance of clear thinking when He told the Pharisees, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." (Matt 16:2-3) They could reason rightly, but were failing. The easy answer? Don't fail to reason rightly.

Biblical Christianity, unlike many in the Christian realm today, is not opposed to using your intellect. On the contrary, it commands it. James wrote that "the wisdom from above is", among other things, "open to reason" (James 3:17). God invites us to "reason together" (Isa 1:18). "But ... what about that 1st Corinthians passage?" you may ask. Note what it says: "not many of you were wise according to worldly standards." Not "none", but "not many", and not simply wise but wise "according to worldly standards." We would, therefore, expect that the numbers of really weighty "intellectual Christians" according to worldly standards would be small. But don't buy the anti-intellectualism of either our modern Age of Empathy or the limited view of Christians who miss this. There are Christian intellectuals, and all Christians are supposed to use their minds to love God and provide reasons for those who ask. It's biblical.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

No Cosmic Killjoy

It is no small number of people that think of God as some sort of a cosmic killjoy. We want to have fun; He wants us to be good. We want joy; He wants somberness. We want what we want; He wants us to have what He wants. Even among Christians there can be a sense of "Oh, well, I guess I won't be able to have all the fun that the rest of the world is having." I would suggest we're thinking too small.

David wrote:
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. (Psa 36:7-9)
First, David calls the lovingkindness of God "precious", something of great value. We're not talking about "pleasant" or "nice" or "good to have around". We're talking about extremely valuable. Why does David say God's lovingkindness is precious?

There is the safety found in God. There is the abundance given by God. There is the glut of delight. There is the fountain of life. This is precious.

I'm struck by that one sentence. "You give them to drink of the river of Your delights." You see, that is not how we -- even we Christians -- tend to think of things. We don't tend to view God as a river of delight. Especially when we have our eye on another pleasure that, let's face it, God is denying us. I think we're missing the magnitude of what God offers. We want a momentary pleasure; God offers a river of delight. We desire earthly fun and God is offering heavenly rapture. We really want to settle for little and God is offering us much.

In fact, the notion is throughout the text. Jesus said He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). David said that abundance comes from God's house. We think of "abundant life" as lots of things and fun and ... you know how it goes. God is offering abundance from His house. Bigger than we can imagine. The delight He offers is rivers full. The life He offers is a fountain. David says that we don't even comprehend light until we see it through Him. To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee, "You call that light? That's not light. This is light."

God's "rivers of delight." Not a phrase that springs to mind when we think of delight. It should. Why opt for short-term, meaningless, momentary pleasure when we can enjoy abundance, delight, security, and life from God? It can make some of the things we want look meager. And it certainly eliminates the "killjoy" title.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

God and Politics

There are two subjects polite gatherings are supposed to steer clear of in order to avoid conflict: politics and religion. It would appear that God doesn't recognize this rule. Clearly His primary topic is religion, but He doesn't leave politics alone, either.
A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left. (Eccl 10:2)
There you have it. Now we know what God thinks of the conservative "right" and the liberal "left".

Filed under Humor

Friday, November 27, 2015


Jude's little epistle urges us to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) (Note that "once for all delivered to the saints" requires that we're not getting new stuff for the faith.) The reason for this urging is that there is a really big problem. "Certain people have crept in unnoticed" among the believers and they "pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Jude 1:4) Almost the entire rest of this little 25-verse epistle is in regards to these false teachers. He summarizes his depiction of these people this way.
These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. (Jude 1:16)
That word -- "malcontents" -- is an interesting word. It is translated "complainers" (KJV), "repiners" (YLT), and the like. But the Greek behind it is really telling. It is a two-part term that forms μεμψίμοιρος -- mempsimoiros. The two parts are μέμφομαι -- memphomai -- meaning "to blame" and μέρος -- meros -- meaning "allotment". It means most literally "to blame fate". It is to blame what you've been given. (Perhaps you can see how it is "complainers" and "malcontents". You're on your own for "repiners". Even I had to look that one up.) And isn't that the truth? It was, in fact, the very first answer to Man's sin: "It's that woman You gave me!" (Gen 3:12) We aren't satisfied with what we've been given and we complain about it and we seek to gather what we have not been given because apparently God doesn't know what He's doing.

As it turns out, I am convinced that "malcontent" is one of our biggest problems. Sexual sin is the result of seeking sexual satisfaction from what God hasn't provided. Greed is the result of being dissatisfied with what God has provided. James says, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel." (James 4:1-2) We want what we do not have and will fight, physically or otherwise, to get it. Solomon warns, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity." (Eccl 5:10)

Conversely, the Bible loves to argue for contentment. Paul tells Timothy,
Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1 Tim 6:6-11)
There's a command and a warning. Be content with what you have because "those who desire to be rich fall into temptation." "Flee these things," Paul tells him. In his letter to the church at Philippi he says, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11-13) Contentment with much or with little, with too much or not enough. He does it by the strength of Christ. Paul goes to what appears to be the extreme when he says, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10) That is, even when God deals me bad things (really bad things), He is content.

On the subject of sex, Solomon says, "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." (Prov 5:18-19) The author of Hebrews says,
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:4-5)
The marriage bed is sufficient and needs to be "undefiled." When you do not find sexual satisfaction there, you fall among the "sexually immoral and adulterous" who face God's judgment. This passage links the two -- satisfaction with your spouse and satisfaction with what you have -- when it also warns that you avoid the "love of money". It is very telling, I think, as to why you should be "content with what you have." It's because what you have is Christ who "will never leave you nor forsake you." That is sufficient.

Biblical Christianity often has a reputation of being a big fuddy-duddy. You know, killjoy, no fun, just be good and be quiet. The biblical command however is not "no fun" or "no joy". It is that we know where to find genuine pleasure and genuine joy. David wrote, "You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psa 16:11) We were made for pleasure and built for contentment. Our problem is not that we "can't get no satisfaction." Our problem is that we look for it in places we were never meant to go. "At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." When we realize (make real to ourselves what is already true) that we have Christ who will never leave us -- that the presence of God is joy and pleasure -- then contentment becomes a given and the insanity of the malcontent -- "I am not satisfied, God, with what You have given me." -- is not ours to carry around.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21)
That's the case. If your treasure is the joy and pleasure of the presence of Christ, that's where your heart will be. If your heart is not there, it is in something God did not design you to pursue and will always produce the malcontent, the ones Jude warns about.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude

The University of Georgia did a study of 468 married individuals. In their study they found that the most consistent, significant predictor of marital quality was ... get this ... spousal expression of gratitude. Didn't see that coming, did you? Not sex, finances, or communication. Gratitude. They said it decreased male and female divorce proneness. They said that when couples engaged in negative conflict patterns, "expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability." Imagine that!

So, here we are at Thanksgiving time. It's a critical time in the human response to God because humans, as a race, naturally tend to be ungrateful (Rom 1:21). Over against that we are repeatedly commanded to give thanks to God. We are to "make known His deeds among the peoples" (1 Chron 6:8) and give thanks because "He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!" (1 Chron 16:34; 1 Chron 20:21; Psa 107:1) (Listen, while you're at it, include Psa 136 which repeats that phrase 4 times.) We are to give thanks "due to His righteousness" (Psa 7:17) and "recount all of Your wonderful deeds" (Psa 9:1; Psa 75:1). Do a word search sometime for "give thanks" in the Bible and the list is monumental. The catch-all, of course, is in Paul's first epistle to the church at Thessalonica.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:18)
That's rather comprehensive, isn't it? All circumstances. "In everything" other translations say. Why? This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Ever wonder what God's will is for your life? Well, I'm sure it's a lot of various things, but one thing is certain. Give thanks!

Turns out it's good for you. It can improve your marriage. It can improve your outlook on life. It is certainly God's will for your life, and, therefore, certainly good in that respect. So do yourself a favor ... and be grateful. A Thanksgiving state of mind.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Did God Say ...?"

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:1-6)
You recognize the story, I'm sure. It's the account of the Fall. You have all the main characters there -- the serpent, Eve, Adam. You have the dialog that deceived Eve (1 Tim 2:14). You have Adam's fatal choice to join her in it. All the pieces are there. What were the serpent's tactics? What methods were involved in making mankind a sinning race? Paul warns us to "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Eph 6:11) What schemes?

The first question is key. "Did God actually say ...?" The serpent wasn't asking for a quote. The serpent didn't want to see the text. He was asking Eve to explain what God said. And He did it by not asking if God said what God actually said. He did it by overstating what God said. The question could be restated this way. "Hey, Eve, did you understand God to say that you couldn't eat from any tree in the garden at all?"

Eve bought it. She thought it was a genuine question. She didn't see the lie. (Seriously, Eve, you're talking to a snake! Wasn't that a clue?) She didn't see the attempt at pushing her beyond what God said. How can we tell that? Because she went beyond what God said. She corrected the serpent -- that's true -- but went on to say that God warned them against touching the one tree in question. Never happened. Satan already had her leaning away from what God had said.

The next step was easy -- denial. "You will not surely die." The difficulty here is that it was a half-truth. Adam and Eve died hundreds of years later. But the death they experienced at the moment was spiritual ... much worse than physical (Matt 10:28). The denial was effective. Eve succumbed to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), included her husband in it, cut off their unhindered relationship with God, and all creation has suffered since (Rom 8:19-22).

Oddly enough, Satan hasn't had to retool. His methods worked well then. They work well now. It is the standard approach. "Did God say ...?" "No, that's not true." You'll hear it in your ear from Satan. You'll hear it in the world from skeptics and even "Christians". They'll sound warm and even wise. They'll lure you into sin. Simple as that. Watch for it. You'll surely see it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teaching Scripture

A decade ago my wife and I moved to a new state. We began the process of picking out a church home. We visited quite a few churches. I noticed something interesting that, as far as I can tell, seems to be the trend rather than the exception. No one teaches the Bible anymore.

Now, now, I know that's an overreach. Take it as hyperbole, an exaggeration to make a point. And, sure, many are still "teaching the Bible" ... but not in the sense that I'm talking about.

Let me illustrate. We went to one church where the pastor was good -- preaching sound doctrine expositionally -- and it all seemed right. But when we asked about joining a smaller group -- adult Sunday School or "life groups" or whatever was available -- it turned out that this group was studying so-and-so's book on finances and that group was reading through this-other-guy's book on the Gospels and ... lots of good stuff, I suppose, but no one was "studying Paul's Epistle to Rome", for instance. And when I asked the pastor about it, he was confused. "Sure we're teaching the Bible," he told me and pointed out all the studies of all the books on biblical topics. "I'm asking if anyone is teaching the Bible. You know, teaching the text so others can get deeper into it. That sort of thing." "I don't know what you're talking about," he told me. "Every church I know of is doing what we're doing."

In another church my wife participated in the Ladies Bible Study. As it turned out, the "Ladies Book Study" would have been a more appropriate title. They would buy a book at the beginning of a season, read the book together, and discuss it. They were Christian books with Christian topics and sometimes even about biblical things, but at best the ladies were reading books about the Bible, not the Bible.

At the church where we are members we are in a small group that is using a book series called Explore the Bible, currently going through Genesis. This book is for "Fall 2015". It is a "Personal Study Guide" that is doing a survey of Genesis (not a study -- it skips around) that gives some texts, makes some observations, and asks some questions. All well and good, but the thing is -- the thing I'm noticing is -- that the teacher is not teaching Genesis; he is teaching the Explore the Bible book about Genesis. It makes the observations and asks the questions a teacher might offer, but the teacher doesn't teach it. He simply follows along.

This isn't necessarily a complaint. Indeed, given the prevalence of false teachers and false doctrines and false teaching in churches today, reliable books may be a reasonable safeguard. I've a feeling there are far more tares than wheat in American churches today on the whole. I'm just observing that it seems to me that very few churches or other Christian gatherings for learning are actually teaching (I'm not talking about preaching; I'm talking about teaching) the Bible where a teacher is examining the Scriptures and explaining it to others. I'm not sure why that would be. Laziness? Fear? Some might chalk it up to "humility" where teachers would say, "I don't know enough to expound on the Scriptures, so I'll let the 'experts' do it." Indeed, many today no longer call themselves "teachers". They prefer "facilitators". That presupposes that teachers are their own sole source, doesn't it? You know, as opposed to having the God-given gift of teaching with the leading of the Holy Spirit?

Whatever the reason, it seems to me that Bible teaching in the churches today is diminishing. It is getting broader, perhaps, given all the books available, but much, much shallower. I suspect this could be a reason why Christians in America today seem to be much, much shallower in their understanding of Scriptures. Which, of course, makes them much easier targets for the skeptics and the liberal "Christians". Or, in other words, makes them much more susceptible to the roaring lion seeking to devour them (1 Peter 5:8).

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Deficiency of the Law

Antinomians argue that we are no longer under the law. They hold that the law is pointless, meaningless, beside the point. Legalists argue that the law is essential, that keeping the law is necessary to please God if not to save. These are two diametrically opposed positions. Which is right? Neither.

Jesus claimed that the Law would not pass away (Matt 5:18). So much for antinomianism. Paul claimed that we are saved by grace apart from works (Eph 2:8-9). So much for legalism. So what is the point?

Many like to argue that the Bible isn't a rulebook, that we aren't to be concerned about obeying rules from the Bible. I would contend that it is logically impossible to read the Bible and come to that conclusion. So, are we supposed to become hard-working law followers? Paul complains that he is not.
But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (Rom 7:16, 19, 22-23)
"The Law is good, but I'm a failure at it." That's his complaint. And I think any genuine Christian would share that same complaint.

What are we to do? Some would tell us we need to work at obeying God's law. We need to knuckle under and really get to it. We need to ... oh, what's the biblical phrase? ... "work out your salvation." (Phil 2:12) There is a sense in which this is true, but it is here that we run into the deficiency of the Law. As it turns out, the Law lacks the ability to make anyone good. We don't arrive at what God wants us to be by striving to follow a set of rules.

Note what Jesus said. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) There's that "keep My commandments" thing. They're important to keep. But notice the cause for keeping His commandments. "Love Me." Ah, now, see? There's the rub! Most of us think that if we work real hard we can become more obedient. Jesus argued that obedience (which, by the way, He obviously wants contrary to the antinomian view) was a product of love for Christ (contrary to the legalist view). If you are not being obedient, the trick is not to become more obedient, nor is the problem a problem of the will. The problem is a heart problem.

We tend to condense our Christian walk into steps, procedures, processes and the like. Jesus argued that the Christian walk, done rightly, was a natural product of loving Christ. Now, think about it for a moment. If it is true that if we love Christ we will keep His commandments, it is certainly true that His commandments are important. Thus, the function of the Law -- the rules of Scripture, if you will -- is to tell us precisely what those commandments are. Absolutely necessary. But if you aren't following them, recognize that the problem isn't sexual immorality or greed, idolatry or covetousness, gossip or slander, or any of the other rules we break. It is us. And the fix is to correct our lack of love for Christ. I suppose that would necessarily fall under the "it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13) kind of thing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Partakers of the Divine Nature

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:2-11)
There's the text. So, what do we learn?

The Goal

What is the end game, the target, the direction we're heading? "There will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Oh, that's good ... really good. We want that. Nothing could be better. But there is more. That's in the future. Here's in the present: to "keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful." Yes, very good. The future and the present are covered here. So, how does this passage indicate that we go about obtaining fruitfulness and effectiveness now and an entrance into the kingdom at the end?

The Premise

The premise of the entire text is God granting grace and peace through knowledge of Him. This is a simple thing, apparently, since "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him." Now, pause and think about that for a moment. "This Christian living thing is tough," I hear people say. "How can I do it?" I admit that it's tough, but this text does not say "My God will provide." It says, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." That's a past tense "grant" and an all-encompassing "grant". Nothing left. Everything you need pertaining to life and godliness is already available. But wait! Notice the source. This comes "through the knowledge of Him who called us." All that we need is provided by knowing Him. On this basis we escape the corruption from sin in the world and ... hang on to your hat ... "become partakers of the divine nature." So, this is big ... really big.

The Process

Okay, so we know where we're going -- effectiveness now and entrance into the kingdom later -- and we know the basis. So, what do we do?

First and foremost, we do not become "little gods" as some have taught. We do not become partakers of the divine essence, but the divine nature. That is, we take on characteristics that belong to God. And, when seen in that light, it isn't a difficult question. That would be virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. You know, like the list says.

But ... how?

Peter says to "make every effort." The KJV says "diligence". The idea is make it your destination, your life's work. This isn't a side project. You start with faith. Got it. Now ... work. Add some virtue. Got it? Now add some knowledge. Mind you, we're not talking perfect or complete knowledge. And there is a sense in which it isn't "head knowledge" either, but, rather, an intimacy with God. Some. Now that you have some virtue and knowledge, add in some self-control. Work on it a little longer (steadfastness). Tune yourself a bit more toward godliness. Now add in some brotherly kindness. The layer over the top will be love. Really, not much. And even that won't be easy. Be diligent.

And then, do it again. "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." And again. And again. We talk of the Christian life as a "walk". Do you know what a walk is? It's a step ... repeated over and over again.

Of course, it's not as if you're expected to do this on your own. You know, muster up the will and power to carry it out. Remember, "It is God who is at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure." (Phil 2:13) Another way in which we are partakers of the divine nature. You remember. The Spirit is at work in all believers, and in that sense also we are partakers.

So, knowing that you are already equipped for this, you can do this. You can "be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election." If you do it, "you will never fall." Step by step, over and over, ever increasing. Partakers of the divine nature.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"Whose Religion" Followup

So, here's the story in a nutshell:
A woman who belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was allowed to wear a colander on her head in a driver’s license photo after her original bid to do so was denied.
That's it. Her American Humanist Association attorney claimed, "The First Amendment applies to every person and every religion." Lindsay Miller of Lowell, Massachusetts, claimed her atheism was a religion. She got her wish.

I recently argued that all of us have a religion, that thing that shapes our values, our specific set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons. I asked whose religion you would want to make our laws since Christianity is being pushed out. I argued that it was a fallacy to say that no religion should be used because "no religion" is a religion, too.

I think Lindsay Miller made my point. Do you want to know something really scary? In 2006 a New York Town Councilman was sworn in wearing a colander. See? Here we have precisely what I was saying, a religion making the laws.

Friday, November 20, 2015

What IS this thing called "love"?

I write a lot about the problem of language, how the words we use are slipping to different, sometimes even opposing definitions until we're two people separated by a common language. Now, of course, given a living language in a shifting culture (which all living cultures are), it is expected that words will drift and new notions will need expression. Unfortunately, in our language, we do that by stealing words from one concept and apply it to another and then forcing everyone to buy into the new one because it's an old word.

There is one word that has shifted so far in our understanding of it that it makes its original concept almost incomprehensible. That word is "love". Now, to be fair, on the face of it the concept is difficult to begin with. I mean, it is very broad and complex. We love pizza and we love our pets and we love our planet and we love our spouses -- not the same things. But similar. Still, our current, most common understanding of "love" is either "sex" or "warm affection". Thus, if you love your spouse it's "sex" and if you love pizza it's "warm affection". Easy!

And I say (like I say so often these days), "You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means." Let me be clear. I'm not merely pointing at you when I say that. We find this word in the Bible and I will willingly admit that I'm not entirely clear on its meaning. I can trip on over to 1 Corinthians 13 and read Paul's description and have some idea of what it means, but I'm still not entirely clear. So, while I admit I don't have the definitive definition (a little play on words, there), I'm still pretty sure that "sex" or "warm affection" are not the primary definitions for the word. The general sense that most people have about the word is that "to love" means "to treat them nice and make them feel good." I'm quite sure that's not it.

Let me offer some illustrations from common human examples. Take, for instance, the parent of an infant who takes her child for necessary inoculations. It hurts the child. That can't be love, can it? Well, I think we would all say that it is, even though this "love" causes pain. I know parents who had a teenage daughter in high school that wanted to try out for cheerleading. The parents were concerned that she was getting too close to the world's glorification of appearance and popularity and felt it was in her best interests to deny her permission. "You're ruining my life!" she told them. Now, that can't be love, can it? I would argue that it could. Motivated by the best interests of the loved one, it would be classified as love even if it doesn't produce warm feelings or make them feel good.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)
This is a biblical description of love. Well, a biblical description of the love that the Bible is talking about as opposed to your (and my) understanding of the term. None of this includes "sex" or "warm affection". One or both of these may be a pleasant and even unavoidable by-product of this version of love, but a by-product of something is not a definition. The Bible also uses another common phrase to try to flesh out the understanding of the word.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Lev 19:18)

"And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt 22:39)

Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph 5:33)
There are, of course, a lot more than that, but perhaps you're getting the idea -- "as yourself". How do we treat ourselves? We do not necessarily avoid all pain or do all the things that feel the best. Oh, sure, kids do, but when we get older we learn that there are better things. We learn wise sayings like "No pain, no gain" because we understand that not all pleasure is profitable and not all pain is bad. We gain a better perspective on love ... that kind of love. And that kind of love -- the love where we seek to provide for our own best interests -- is the love we should be providing for others.

Love. It's a common word. I don't think we're really grasping it very well at all. So when we trot out the standard "God loves everyone" and apply our own misguided definition to "love", we're doing Him a great disservice. Perhaps we ought to find out what He means by it, because I'm quite sure it is neither "sex" nor "warm affection".

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hard Topics -- ISIS

What to do ... what to do? What to do about ISIS? Tough question.

John Kerry is in the news over his comments about the Paris attacks. He said,
There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.
I'm not a Kerry fan ... not even remotely ... but Kerry is right. He explained it was "not a legitimacy", but that there was "a rationale" behind the Charlie Hebdo attack. If people can't see that, they don't know people. People, you see, always act according to a rationale. No one does anything for no reason, even if it is as meaningless as "because it's there". Humans always do what they do for a reason. It may be a ludicrous reason or a nonsensical reason or a poorly formed reason, but there is always "a rationale".

What disturbs me is not that our Secretary of State thought there was a rationale (and not a legitimacy) to the one attack in Paris, but that the latest attack was different. One, he says, had a rationale (and not, as his detractors have argued, a "moral justification"), but the other apparently did not. If our government cannot figure out the rationale which certainly exists, how will they be able to address the problem? It would appear that they aren't looking for it.

The truth is the western world doesn't much get this version of Islam. It isn't ... western. Just look on the surface of it. We have always understood that the threat of death was a good method of preventing things from happening. I mean, you put an armed guard on something thinking that those who don't wish to die will avoid going in there. We get that. But now we find people whose ideology ignores the possibility of death and, instead, embraces it. How do you stop a person with a bomb strapped to his (or her) body who doesn't care if he or she dies because they intend to do just that? Suddenly we find that their ideology is outside our experience.

The Atlantic has an article entitled What ISIS Really Wants. It addresses the underlying ideology that, if we (those opposed to it) don't grasp it, we'll never have a chance of curbing it. At its core, this group believes itself to be ushering in the Day of Judgment. In this, their jihad is only a component, even a tool. We think it is their goal. And they aren't thinking of it like we do in modern 21st century categories and values. They're thinking of it in 5th century terms, way back in the early days of Islam. Those Muslims carried out a massive conquest, taking over most of the Middle East (which was the reason for the call for help that brought the Crusades to defend the region), north Africa, and even Spain and Portugal. They want to kill infidels, to be sure, but the goal is the apocalypse.

Nor is it a matter of personal gain or power. It's a matter of religious conviction. They're seeking a return to "Rule by Islam" complete with their standard death penalties for violation of religious rules. Public icons, both in the government and even in Islam, are arguing that "This is not Islam." Our last three presidents all assured us that it wasn't. It is. It is not the Islam they've embraced or recognized, but it is the Islam of Muhammed and his subsequent followers. It is exactly what you would find in their holy texts. Even the name, Islam, means not "peace" as many believe, but "submission". The tenet is that submission brings peace. Christianity by name is about Christ. Islam by name is about submission. Christians have "the Jesus hermeutic" where Jesus is the focus; ISIS uses "the Prophetic methodology" where walking in the path of the Prophet Muhammed is the way.

"Oh, no," they tell us, "it's not that. It's a problem of disaffected people who have been abused for too long." Right. Osama Bin Laden (who ISIS views as their predecessor) was born into a multimillionaire family living off privilege until he fell in with the Muslim Brotherhood and opted for war. He said, "Every Muslim, the minute he can start differentiating, carries hate towards Americans, Jews and Christians, this is part of our ideology. Ever since I can recall, I felt at war with the Americans and had feelings of animosity and hate towards them." That's not "disaffection". It's ideology. In 1996 he issued his “Declaration of War Against the Americans Who Occupy the Land of the Two Holy Mosques.” What "Land of the Two Holy Mosques" does America occupy? That's not abuse; it's ideology. In 1998 he declared, “We—with God’s help—call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans." That's not disaffection; that's ideology. George Bush did not create ISIS; ideology did.

So here we are in the West arguing about whether or not one attack had a rationale and the other did not. Our failure to grasp the rationale -- the reasoning behind the group we call "ISIS" (or "ISIL" if you're the president) -- will make it impossible to engage the problem. At its core it is a religious ideal, and you can't kill a religious ideal with planes and bombs, let alone the complete failure to grasp that it is a religious ideal. Indeed, defeat is part of their plan, thinking that they are fulfilling some end-of-the-world prophecy that snatches victory from an apparent defeat and places Islam in charge of the world. You don't fight that with "boots on the ground." You can limit it with military force, but you can't defeat it. As we've seen thus far.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


We know what an atheist is. It's someone who believes there is no God. And, let's be honest, when we read God's evaluation -- "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psa 14:1) -- we tend to point quietly among ourselves and nod knowingly. Perhaps we should be more circumspect.

When a wife understands that God commands, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22) and responds, "Me ... submit to him? Not today.", she is saying, "In this situation at this time, there is no God." When a husband recognizes the instruction, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph 5:25) and parries with, "I'll love my wife, but not that much", he is telling God, "Right now I am going to act as if You do not exist." When the young man cruises the Internet to his favorite site of sex acts knowing all along that God's Word says, "Flee from sexual immorality." (1 Cor 6:18), he is setting himself up as his own master and discarding God. When the Christian cruises down the highway at 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, confident that there are no cops around right now, and fully aware that the Instruction Manual for Christians says, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." (Rom 13:1-2), they are opposing God and acting as if He just isn't there.

We all do it. It's more often than we even imagine. We assume that our lives are our own when God claims that all that exists is His. We think that our sex lives and our work habits and the way we dress are only our concern when God claims sovereignty over everything. We admit to the Lordship of Christ with our lips while we deny it in practice. It is practical atheism.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not pointing at you. It is me that concerns me. I'm the one who has a hard time with simple, straightforward statements like "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16:18) and "Regard one another as more important than yourselves." (Phil 2:3) These aren't questionable or hard to grasp. And still I suffer from pride and self-centeredness. Like you, I have to admit that rarely do I actually "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22:37), let alone love my neighbor as myself. It's not that I don't know these things. I just suffer from ... foolishness.

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" It pains me to think how much of the time I am operating as if there is no God. It is difficult to realize that in these times I am called a fool by God. So I have to spend time in a Psalm 51 attitude. A lot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


I don't normally write two posts in a day, nor do I follow Twitter, let alone Planned Parenthood twitter, but I came across this tweet from Planned Parenthood and was just dumbfounded.
Every child deserves the opportunity to live up to their
God given potential. @HillaryClinton #blacklivesmatter
Seriously, how does anyone from PP write something like that and mean anything remotely like it? In any sense?

By "every child" they mean "only the ones we recognize" as opposed to "every".

By "deserves the opportunity to live up to ..." they mean ... sorry, I can't tell what they mean. I can't tell what they mean by "deserves" when they think that some deserve to die. I can't figure out what "the opportunity" means when they kill more than they save. Apparently "live" is something different than normal people call it, too.

They cannot actually use the phrase "God given potential" with any rational meaning. "God" has nothing to do with it and "potential" is only that which is dreamed up by a mother who does or does not want her child. No meaning whatsoever.

The "@HillaryClinton" is really ironic since Hillary is on record for being pro-abortion and staunchly anti-life.

And, as if to be sure to end in a complete downpour of foolishness, they tack on "#blacklivesmatter". You know, like the fact that "Abortion Kills More Black Americans Than the Seven Leading Causes of Death Combined." Or the fact that more black babies were aborted in New York City in 2013 than were born. Or the reality that "Women of color are five times as likely to terminate a pregnancy as their white counterparts." Yes, black lives matter. Terminating them doesn't suggest you think so.

But this is the kind of "reasoning" and "logic" and "care and concern" we can expect from those who ignore God while giving Him lipservice. Most astounding, I suppose, is that so few seem to see it.

Marry Your Local Rapist

There is a portion of the skeptics that like to claim that God requires rape victims to marry their rapist. "See," they conclude, "if God exists, He's evil!" (I cannot quite fathom why someone who believes no such being exists would wish to debate about the morality of such a being. I mean, the Chinese portray dragons as good and wise and the Europeans portray them as evil, but I'm not debating the existence of dragons based on whether or not they're either.) So, where do they get that claim?
"If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days." (Deut 22:28-29)
Well, now, look ... there it is, plain as day. He "seizes her" and, if caught, has to pay a dowry and marry her for life. Too bad for him. Make sure you rape a girl you wouldn't mind spending your life with. Oh, and too bad for her.

But ... is that what it says? Again, context is important. I numbered that account because there are more to consider. Prior to this command is an earlier one centered "in the open country".
"If in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her." (Deut 22:25-27)
They end differently. Why? What are the similarities and what are the differences? Well, in both we have a young woman who is "seized". In one they are "in the open country" and in the other they are not. In one he pays the father and marries her and in the other he is ... executed. Now, wait! Isn't there a logical problem here? I mean, if God requires women who are raped to marry their rapists, why is one rapist killed and the other not? Hmmm. Perhaps the accusation against God is not valid.

There is another version here to take into account.
"If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst." (Deut 22:23-24)
Keep in mind that "betrothed" was "married but not yet consummated" in those times. (It says "he violated his neighbor's wife.") This is why, when Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant before he married her, he sought to divorce her (Matt 1:19). So in version #2 we were talking about a betrothed woman, and in this version it is a betrothed woman. The penalty for consensual sex between a betrothed or married woman (Deut 22:22) and someone not her husband is death for both as version #3 states. In version #2 -- non-consensual sex between a betrothed or married woman and someone not her husband -- the penalty is death for the rapist. So in version #1 regarding a "a virgin who is not betrothed", the penalty is somehow different.

So what exonerates the woman in version #2? In the case of married/betrothed women who encounter sex apart from their spouse, it is either death for both or death for the man, depending on whether or not it was rape. In the case of the betrothed woman in open country, the male dies, but "you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death." Why? "There was no one to rescue her." Ah, now we're getting someplace. In the instance where she was not in open country, note that "they are found", but not in the other accounts. This suggests that the act was mutual, not rape. If it is rape, she would cry out and find help. Oh, and in that case, the punishment for rape is death. Since she didn't cry out (remember, they were not "in the open country"), it appears to be consensual sex. For consensual sex with a woman who is not betrothed, the penalty is marriage without possibility of divorce.

Now, some will assure you that this is intended to protect the woman. No one would marry a non-virgin. She'd be stuck without a husband. Fine. I won't disagree. But my point here is that the text does not appear to require rape in the case of the virgin, but rather consensual sex. Therefore, the accusation that God requires a rape victim to marry her rapist is false. As in Exodus 22:16, the penalty for seducing a virgin is marriage. (Note that in the Exodus version the father has the right to refuse the bride-price and to give his daughter to him.) Since Deuteronomy means "the second law" and is supposed to basically be a restating of the law from the previous version, it's pretty clear that this is the case. The sad part is that too many Christians won't think it through sufficiently to be able to demonstrate this. So I would urge, "Christians ... know thy Scripture."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Working Toward Completion

In the covenant that God made with Abraham (Gen 15), there were some remarkable promises. Abraham would have a son in his old age. His children would number like the stars. God would give him a land which was huge. Mixed in among this wonderful stuff is a strange little part.
Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." (Gen 15:13-16)
In among all these wonderful things that God promised Abraham is this little promise ... of slavery. Yes, 400 years of it. "Oh, don't worry," God seems to say, "I'll judge the nation that does it." Like that makes it better. "You'll come out rich." Yeah, okay ... but 400 years of slavery!

Perhaps more disturbing, at least to me, is God's explanation. "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." So, God was going to put Israel on ice for 400 years because the people that occupied the land that God was going to give them were not yet wicked enough. Oh, they would be, but just not yet. They hadn't completed their drive toward wickedness. And Israel wasn't going into their Promised Land as conquerors as much as God's rod of discipline.

That phrase gives me chills. "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." Sure, it was some time. It was from Abraham's time through Isaac and Jacob and past Jacob's sons' days. Then another 400 years. But it makes me wonder. When is the iniquity of America complete? And who or what will God use to carry out His judgment then? Because you can be quite sure that He is a just God and will certainly judge a nation who is working toward making Sodom and Gomorrah look like saints.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


We live in a self-help world. Oh, not just self-help, to be sure. We like our analysts and our doctors and our therapists and our nutritionists and our holistic health coordinators and all sorts of people who will help us feel better. Even as Christians we think that if we can just "work on it" a bit, we can arrive at spiritual health. You know, some self-control and self-denial and some careful spiritual workouts and we should be okay.

Contrast that with Scripture.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom 8:13)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5)
Isn't that just like God? Too dramatic. Too "over the top". We just need some tuning, some therapy, a couple of good self-help books, an accountability partner, that kind of thing. Surely there's a 12-step program in there somewhere.

God's answer is not "You can make it better." It is not "Your best life now." It is "Put it to death." We live in a therapeutic society that looks to fix everything and God is telling us we need to kill it. We're hoping a little massage will make it feel better and He's telling us to kill the old self. We need to execute him. And when he gets back up, do it again. We need to stop coddling him -- trying to make the sinful self better -- but to nail him to a cross ... the Cross of Christ ... again and again and again.

Sin is that which is not done by God for God. The only good that we can do is that which is accomplished by "God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2:13) Thus, any therapies you might apply to make your old self a better self won't work.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:2-3)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why Is That?

Just thinking "aloud" a moment here. When a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, right or wrong, stood her ground refusing to do her job of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in opposition to the Kentucky state constitution, there was an outcry. "Do your job or get out of office!" That was the nice version. And it came from pro and con views on the topic of same-sex mirage. The idea is "Either do your job or get out of office."

Why is it that this only seems to apply to people who claim to be Christians standing for their religious freedom? In the federal government and in multiple state governments justice departments were tasked with defending traditional marriage laws legally enacted. The Justice Department refused to defend DOMA and many state attorney general departments refused to defend their own state laws on the subject. So why is it that the Kim Davis types need to do their job or quit, but the attorneys tasked with defending the law who refuse to do so do not?

Another thing. Why is it that some people will moan and groan that by taking the Bible at its word we are putting words in God's mouth -- claiming "God says" (like the Bible says) -- but these self-same people have not a single complaint about folks like Sarah Young who write books like Jesus Calling which claims to be extrabiblical direct revelations from God -- "God says"?

To be honest, there are many things in this world that I do not comprehend. A large amount of that is people.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Economic Deists

Let's just say you're a good Christian. You know, not just a professing Christian, but genuine. You read your Bible. You go to church. You have faith in Christ and a real relationship with Him. You try to be a godly person. A real Christian. I have to ask, are you an economic deist?

We all know the difference between an atheist and a theist. The theist believes in God and the atheist believes there is no God. Clear enough. What's the difference between a theist and a deist? Well, deism is the belief that God created the world and then sort of took His hands off, so to speak. It all runs on natural laws and such. He doesn't have to do much. Theism argues that God never took His hands off. He is always and intimately involved in everything. In practical terms, we Christians often lapse into deism over theism. We'll classify things as "secular" or "sacred" as if God is not part of the former. We'll think that work, traffic, how I dress, and so forth are not part of God's concerns while sin and worship are. The theist, on the other hand, would have to admit that, while "secular" and "sacred" are possible categories of thought, there really is no distinction to the Creator and God is intimately involved and deeply concerned with it all. You know, like Jesus said when He claimed, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matt 10:29-30) If God cares about sparrows and hair follicles, it would not be accurate to suggest a "hands off" God in Christian theology.

In fact, the Bible doesn't merely suggest theism. It demands it. We know that "all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Col 1:16-17) In the phrase "in Him all things hold together" we see Paul's reason for claiming, "In Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) The biblical assertion is that we owe everything to Him "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen." (Rom 11:36) These are not small claims. They are all-encompassing. This is why it makes sense to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1). This is why we have the overarching purpose statement of all existence in the command, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31) The reach of these passages leaves nothing untouched. Everything is about God. Everything belongs to God (Psa 24:1). He is the Creator and owner and purpose for everything.

So ... you Christians -- you know, the good ones, the real ones, the ones intent on serving and glorifying God -- I have to ask. Are you an economic deist? The question occurred to me the other day about myself. I'm not claiming superiority here. But I suspect that I'm not alone in this. I recognize that everything belongs to God and everything I do should glorify God, and then I look at something I want to buy and never ask, "Will this glorify God?" I think I belong to the Lord but act as if my money is my own. I argue against the concept of "secular" versus "sacred" and then make the very distinction when it comes to spending the money He has given me.

Here in Arizona we had a recent case where a woman who worked for a charitable organization called Cancer Support Community Arizona was arrested for spending more than $150,000 of their money on herself and overpaying herself an additional $40,000. She used "the charity's credit card to buy herself concert tickets, clothing and electronics." And you wonder, "How in the world could anyone do that?"

And do you ask yourself the same thing? "How in the world could I think of spending God's money on concert tickets and clothing and electronics?" Where did we get the idea that God cares about everything ... except how we spend the money He gives us? Now, I'm not saying it is not possible to buy tickets, clothing, or electronics for God's glory. I'm just concerned that we don't.

It's something I need to think about, examine further, and certainly change. It's a heart issue (Matt 15:18-20). It may be encouraged by my capitalist, self-centered, self-serving commercialist environment, but it's a problem with me that I need to submit to the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit. I'm just wondering if there are others out there with the same difficulty.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Better Arguments

More than a few times I've read where people are recommending that we need to make more coherent arguments. Opponents will tell us we're losing the culture wars because are arguments aren't as strong as theirs. Christians hold up Apologetics as a field we need to major in and tell us that we're just not making our defense of the faith in reasoned lines of thinking. We have great organizations like Stand to Reason and marvelous defenders of the faith like Phil Johnson, J.P. Moreland, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, J. Warner Wallace, and even C. S. Lewis. And it's not enough. Better arguments. Clearer reasoning. More evidence. That's what we need.

While I'm quite sure that we need to make a reasonable defense of the faith, I think we're misunderstanding the world in which we live. Here, allow me to illustrate. A while back I read a Facebook entry from a girl I know about how she was glad that the court had struck down the vote of California that enshrined traditional marriage in California law. I asked her what had changed her mind. Here was her reasoned response. "Well, I imagined how I would feel if someone told me I couldn't marry the one I love." Ah, yes, you see? Good logic. The arguments carefully considered. Well, no, not at all. The key here was "How would I feel?"

As it turns out, the world is a wiz at playing with your emotions. It does it by pulling at your desires rather than your brain. You know, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Sin rots the brain (Rom 1:28-32), and for reasons unknown we're thinking that by better use of the brain we can fix the problem.

We're not dealing with misguided thinking. We're dealing with deceived hearts (Jer 17:9) and blinded eyes (2 Cor 4:4). We're not trying to correct thinking; we're working with dead people (Eph 2:1). It is the mistake that many conservatives make. As an example, you can show how the Bible says that homosexual behavior is a sin and you can show how it is opposed to nature and you can show the negative ramifications and you can show how history has viewed it. A nice, well-built line of reasoning. But none of that matters because it's not about well-built reasoning. It's about how they feel and what they want. You know, lust and pride. Scripture and nature and science and history aside, it all makes sense, right? So they'll fall back on name-calling ("You're a hater" and "homophobic" and "anti-LGBT" and "bigoted") without responding to the reasoning or the evidence. It's not that we're not providing a logical defense. It's that logic doesn't matter. If they can paint you in a negative light and rally emotional support for their view, you're not only wrong, you're dangerous. "Don't bother me with facts; I know I'm right."

"Oh, Stan," you'll tell me, "you're just being an alarmist" or "a defeatist" or "You just don't have it right." Maybe. But I come to this conclusion because Scripture says, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:12) So, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." (Eph 6:11) Because proper arguments, keen logic, evidence or evident reason are not going to solve this problem. Oh, sure, you need those. I'm all in favor of that. But you just need to keep in mind that while you're rallying the evidence and arguments, they're rallying the emotions against you. Count on it. You're fighting improper thinking and while you're actually battling sin nature. So be ready to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15) (with gentleness and reverence), but remember, like the demons the disciples faced, "This kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting." (Matt 17:21) A couple of extra tools in the toolbox never hurt.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


One morality question I've heard repeatedly is about sex. We're all pretty clear that sex outside of marriage is biblically regarded as sin. No question there. But what about masturbation? Lots of people ask about it and lots of people have answers. I've personally become convinced that the question belies a misunderstanding of God's intention for human sexual behavior.

Of course, we're all clear that one clear purpose for sexual relations between humans is reproduction. Or, you'd think we'd all be clear. The homosexual side of the question is not. Many in the standard, normal, heterosexual, even Christian side are not. But there can be no doubt, even if you're looking from a purely natural point of view. The first purpose of sexual relations is procreation.

"Fine. That's not the question. The question is about masturbation." Yes, I'm getting there. But not too fast. If one clear purpose of sexual relations is reproduction, how does masturbation work into that? It doesn't. But, clearly, that's not the only purpose for sex for humans. If you look for the biblical sexual ethic, you'll find it most clearly in Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth.
The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Cor 7:3-4)
"That's a sexual ethic?" Yes, it is. If read in the light of other Scriptures, it makes perfect sense that way. For instance, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil 2:3-4) Do you see it there? The biblical sexual ethic is not "What pleases me", but "What am I giving?" It is precisely reflected in Jesus's words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

Consider, also, the premise of marriage (you know, the only biblically moral place that sex takes place). It is the relationship where two shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-5; 1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31-32). Paul says, "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the Church." (Eph 5:32) Thus, the sexual relationship between a man and a woman is a depiction of the relationship with Christ and the Church.

There is, of course, one underlying principle that should also be considered in the question. It's the very simple, straightforward, all-encompassing command, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31)

Okay, so now we have the structure of God's ideas on the topic of sexual relations. It is for 1) reproduction, 2) giving to your spouse, 3) union of husband and wife (especially as an illustration of Christ's relationship to the Church), and 4) for glorifying God. So, given this purpose statement of sex, in what possible sense would masturbation make sense? Indeed, it would seem to be diametrically opposed to everything God designed sex for.

It's an easy error, really. Our world has assured us that life is about our own desires and sex is about our own pleasure. In their more generous moments, it's about getting and giving pleasure. On occasion, it might even be about procreation. Maybe. And that's all that it is ... in our world. The Bible disagrees. It is for God's glory as an illustration of the union of God's Son with His Bride as shown in the union of husband and wife in procreation and the mutual giving of oneself to the other. When you think of it that way, "Is masturbation a sin?" becomes almost a silly question. I mean, is anything we are doing these days in our sexual relationship aimed at what God intended? I think we've been misled. And perhaps, in more cases than we realize, "Is this wrong?" is not the right question; "Is this right?" would be a better one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Protesting the Truth?

This is just just embarrassing. More than one outspoken Christian is protesting Starbucks because of their red and green Christmas cups. "Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus," they complain. So they're never going back to Starbucks again.

It's embarrassing because they're acting as if it's a surprise. Jesus told His disciples, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you." (John 15:18) That's just the way it is. "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." (Rom 8:7) Why would any Christian be surprised at this?

It's embarrassing because they actually believe that Starbucks' cups ought to reflect Christian values. Seriously, are you expecting Starbucks to obligate itself to rightly reflect the reason for the season? Look, guys, if you're going to protest every business that rejects Christ and fails to reflect Christian values, you'll be limited to an extremely small list of places to shop.

It's embarrassing because they don't know the reason for the colors. Starbucks has included the traditional red, green, and white on their cups. This has angered some. What they apparently don't realize is the origin of the colors. According to multiple sites, here's the point of the colors. They were originally incorporated into the Christmas story for people who couldn't read. The green, displayed primarily by trees (which were eventually called "Christmas trees") was symbolic of life. The red placed in the trees, often in the form of apples, was intended to symbolize the fall of Adam followed by the blood of Christ as the solution to the Fall. The white, connected to the obvious snow of winter, also symbolized the "white as snow" with which we are washed by the blood of Christ. That is, the colors tell the Gospel story.

Ah, well, not much I can do about it. They'll complain. I'll be embarrassed. Such is life. But perhaps you, dear reader, can reflect on the glory of the truth of God's gift of life in the form of the blood of His Son that washes sin as white as snow and find a reason to rejoice, even if it is behind Starbuck's back.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Calvinism Discarded

Despite the title, I am not actually going to discuss Calvinism. I'm going to discuss something dimly related. I cannot tell you how many times people have discovered that I believe that humans are sinful from birth (Rom 5:12; Psa 51:5; Gen 8:21; 1 Cor 2:14), that we are chosen for salvation apart from our own actions or choices (John 15:16; Eph 1:3-5; John 1:12-13; Rom 9:16; 2 Tim 1:9), that Christ saves everyone He intends to save (John 17:9; John 10:15; John 6:37), that we come to Christ by God's gift, not by our choice (John 6:44, 65; Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 2:25; John 10:16), and that in the final analysis God will insure that His own are ultimately saved (John 5:24; 1 John 5:1; John 10:27; Phil 1:6; Jude 1:24-25) (All these Scriptures are samples, not an exhaustive list of references), people label me as a "Calvinist", and accuse me of "following a man." I mean, it's an easy mistake, to be sure. "It is called 'Calvinism', after all. That's the teachings of John Calvin, right? So you're following the teachings of John Calvin. Right?"

I don't know if you've caught the error, but I've already laid it out. I believe in what are called "the doctrines of grace" not because John Calvin taught them, but because it's what I see in Scripture. Indeed, there was a time that I did not believe most of that stuff. Why? Because other people told me other things. "We're not really sinners to the core. People are basically good." "God chooses you based on your choice of Him." "God plans to save everyone." "Anyone can ignore God's calling." "It is possible to lose your salvation." (Okay, of the "5 points", that last one was never one I actually believed. But people told me that.) But when Scripture reached out and struck me in the face, I was forced to change my views. I had never (in fact, still haven't really) read Calvin. Indeed, as I understand it, the so-called "Five Points of Calvinism" came from a later date than John Calvin (see "the synod of Dort"). So I am convinced of these "doctrines of grace" not because I am a follower of John Calvin or "Calvinism", but because Scripture leads me to this point.

You see, that's the case in all of my theology of which I'm aware. I've been accused of following "the teachings of men". I believe in the Trinity ("Constantine made that up, you know.") and that Christ paid the price for our sins ("A fiction of the Reformation, you know.") and ... well, you know, what turns out to be historical Christian orthodoxy. And I make the case for these things from Scripture. I believe in the Trinity (even if the word "Trinity" doesn't appear in Scripture) because Scripture demands it. I am convinced that Christ paid for sin because the Bible says so in multiple places. I see the Bible as the final authority in matters of faith and practice for biblical reasons. "You complain about embellishing the Bible with traditions of men and then you do it," they say. As a "Calvinist" or a Trinitarian or being convinced of Penal Substitutionary Atonement or that the Bible clearly calls homosexual behavior sin (and so many other apparently controversial positions I hold), I will stand not on philosophy or the teachings of others, but on Scripture. As such, I discard the labels. I'm a biblicist. When you can show me that the Bible does not say what it seems to say, I'll gladly side with you. Until then, you're on your own.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A Joy Alignment

Some thoughts from Hebrews.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-3)
What "cloud of witnesses"? That's from the previous chapter ... the "faith chapter". That "cloud of witnesses" is made up of people like Noah and Abraham and Moses. The text says of these people that "the world was not worthy" (Heb 11:38). That cloud.

Because of that cloud, we ought to "lay aside every encumbrance and sin" so we can "run with endurance" with our eyes fixed on Jesus. What does that get us in this race we run? I mean, how does looking to Jesus help us run this race?

Well, look what Jesus endured. It started before His earthly life, back when He "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:6-8) Imagine that! We're not particularly pleased when we're asked to surrender some comfort or some constitutional rights, but Christ cloaked His deity and literally humbled Himself to death. And what a death! He sweat drops of blood in the garden (Luke 22:44). He was betrayed by one of His inner circle. He faced an illegal and degrading all-night trial at the hands of the Sanhedrin. His followers deserted Him. Tormented by Herod's soldiers and whipped and insulted by Pilate's goons, He was forced to bear His own cross beyond His own endurance. On Golgotha He was nailed to that cross and displayed naked in front of everyone as a criminal ... while being innocent of every accusation. Paul says there in Philippians that it was out of obedience.

Run that race. Look at Jesus who is the captain and perfecter of the faith and do that.

Perhaps, to me, the most interesting phrase in the entire text is the part that tells Jesus's motivation. Why did He do it? Why did He endure the hostility of everyone around Him and that cross and that shame and even the rejection of His Father? Get this: "for the joy set before Him". Can you beat that? Without diminishing what was the worst torment anyone could endure, Jesus saw joy at the other end. What motivated His obedience? What motivated His endurance? Why go through it all? Joy.

I'll tell you a secret. If we could do that, we'd be unbeatable. We'd be unstoppable. No one could gainsay our faith or argue that Christians are evil. I remember reading about a time in the Roman Empire when a Caesar decided to start hanging Christians. He had to stop because Christians started coming out of the woodwork with their own ropes in hand asking to be hanged. Endure suffering? No problem. Who wouldn't "for the joy"?

So why don't we? Well, I don't know about you, but I'm guessing that we don't understand that joy. We've got our joy set somewhere else. Of all places, it looks as if we expect to find our greatest joy here on this temporary assignment we call Earth. We expect to find it by being able to not issue licenses to gay mirages or to be allowed to pray on the field or to not have to bake cakes in celebration of the farce or things like that. I mean, we don't want to give in. That's fine. But suffer for it? That is not joy to us. Strange. Because it was joy to Christ to suffer more than we'll ever imagine and die for the sake of God's glory so that He could be placed at God's right hand. Maybe we need a new joy alignment or something.

Saturday, November 07, 2015


Idiocracy was a 2006 satire that I never saw about a dystopian society where advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism have run rampant and that is devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights, about our future where we're governed by idiots ...

Maybe you haven't heard. In early November The New York Times reported on a battle going on between the Township High School District 211 in Palantine, IL, and the federal Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education. A male student in school there self-identified as a female and demanded his Title IX rights to participate on a girls' sports team and to change and shower in the girls' locker room. Well, of course, the school did what it could. The school provided a screen for him (I'm sorry, but I will not identify a human being with male DNA and male body parts as "her") to change behind so that the entire rest of the team would not be offended by looking at male body parts or made uncomfortable by displaying their own nudity to a biological male. Well, that wasn't enough. So now the United States Department of Education is demanding that the male student have unrestricted access to the girls' locker room without respect for the other girls or they will suffer millions of dollars in lost revenue.

So, what have we learned?

We've learned that Science is dead; long live Science. That is, what is clear and demonstrable, what we call "empirical", is no longer king. The new "Science" is predicated on "What do I feel?" It's the Age of Empathy where reality is determined by feelings rather than facts. It's the natural offspring of Post-modernism that argued essentially that nothing was real. If I say, "I was born Stan, but I feel like I'm Napoleon and I want to be king of France," they'd lock me up. It's crazy. If I say, "I was born a man but I feel like a woman and I demand access to all things 'woman'", they'll brand me as heroic and go to court to defend my "rights".

We can now see that, since "truth" is rightly defined as "that which corresponds to reality" and "I have been born in a boy's body, but I believe I'm a girl" doesn't correspond to reality, truth is right out. In a world willing to disregard truth and discard reality, there is no telling where it will head next, but it cannot be in a good direction. "I choose to believe that bus headed toward me doesn't exist" doesn't end well because reality is ignored. And in a world like this, when others (like Christians) claim to hold the truth in hand, they aren't tolerated; they're eliminated. If you have the audacity to say, "But ... all you have to do is look ... that's not a girl", you're a hater and need to be removed. That kid who said, "The emperor has no clothes!" should have been arrested.

We find that, in the Sexual Revolution's astounding coup d'état of a nation's moral code that was accomplished in a matter of a year or two overriding hundreds of years of inbred values, the government is perfectly happy buying into an anti-evident claim of "I feel like a girl so I am" and is forcing the rest of the country to go with it, where, as in this case, the entire group isn't relevant if one guy who claims he's a girl is not completely comfortable in his selected environment. Where does the Sexual Revolution go from here? At this point I'd guess the sky's the limit. "Whatever you want" can be the only guide.

Something that appears to be missed although it seems to me to be blatantly self-evident is that gender is dead. Or ought to be. The rule, for instance, is that anyone should be allowed to participate in any sports. Girls should be allowed to play on men's teams. And we're headed that way ... by law. But if this is they case, why are there men's or women's teams? And why are there no men seeking to play on women's teams? What's up with that? We scream egalitarianism. "We're all alike!" They cloak it in "equal" rather than "alike" and then try to tell us that it means we're all alike ... because we're all equal. "Equal" means "being the same". We're all the same. See? Thus, gender is dead. And, yet, if we're all the same, there should be no "men's" or "women's" anything. The "transgender" makes no sense because we're all the same. We fight for "men and women are equal" and then argue that men can be women and women can be men and then try to change into the other ... which we just argued was the same.

Someone told me, "That movie, Idiocracy, wasn't a comedy; it was a prophecy."

Seriously, when a society arrives at this point, where it assumes "I feel" means "it is truth" and the government enforces it, there can be little expectation of anything to redeem that society. I hope you Christians out there have your trust in something other than common sense, evident reason, public pressure, voters, democracy, or government. (But, I would hope that was true even if things didn't look so bad.)

Friday, November 06, 2015

Let's Talk Hunches

Hunch: a feeling or guess based on intuition rather than known facts. That's what the dictionary says. A hunch is not based on facts, but is a matter of intuition. So, I say, "The Bible says that homosexual behavior is a sin" and they tell me, "That's your hunch."

Now, typically I leave out the ever popular texts on Sodom and Gomorrah. People have a too-ready answer of "It was inhospitality, not homosexuality that was the problem there." But if we're going to go with facts, I have to address this one, too. First, The Bible says "Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord." (Gen 13:13) No debate possible here. God opted to destroy the cities because "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave." (Gen 18:20) Abraham, the first Jew, managed to whittle God down to an agreement to not destroy the cities if He could locate a mere 10 godly people (Gen 18:23-32). God couldn't. And when God's emissaries went into Sodom to take a look around, they were confronted by "the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man" (That's a long way to go to explain the extent of the confrontation.) who demanded to "know" Lot's visitors (in the biblical sense) and couldn't be dissuaded even after being struck blind (Gen 19:4-9). "No, that's just about hospitality." Really? "Well, yes," they assure me and point to Ezekiel who wrote, "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." (Ezek 16:49) And I wouldn't like to argue that Sodom was not inhospitable. But Jude specifies that Sodom and Gomorrah were an example of God's punishment because they "indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire" (Jude 1:7). Sorry. That's not inhospitality; that's sexual sin, specifically of the homosexual kind. Not a hunch; it's what it says.

Further, I don't know why we need to continually trot out the biblical texts on this. It's not like no one knows they're there. But ...
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Lev 18:22)

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Lev 20:13)

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Rom 1:26-27)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
Straightforward and clear.

"Oh, see, that whole 'men who practice homosexuality' phrase there is a mistranslation," I've heard. "It actually refers to pederasty." Look, even the people at, a pro-homosexual website, understand that "Recent scholarship has shown conclusively that the traditional meanings assigned to these words stand." They explain that the Greek term used in the text is coined by Paul as a Greek version of the Leviticus phrase. They say (not just me), "The word was almost certainly coined by Greek-speaking Jews. Understood in the context of what we know about role playing in most ancient same-sex relationships, malakoi are the receptive parties and arsenokoitai the inserters in male-male anal intercourse." Not my "hunch."

These are the facts. (Remember "hunch" is defined as intuition rather than facts.) Further, Judaism before Christ and Christianity since has universally understood these to mean exactly what is being said, that God classifies homosexual behavior -- sex between two people of the same gender -- to be sexual sin. Not a hunch; historical fact.

How about sin? I say, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23) Is that a hunch? You decide. I base it on these kinds of things. There's the text I just offered. There is the assault on "the basic goodness of mankind" in Paul's letter to Rome. "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Rom 3:10-18) A rather lengthy and thorough depiction. There is God in Genesis -- "The intention of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen 8:21) -- and David in Psalms -- "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psa 51:5) and "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies." (Psa 58:3). (Side note. I saw an interesting study from the National Geographic channel, no less, that claimed that children as young as 6 months old were shown to be lying to their parents. Not my idea; those scientists said it.) Paul -- you remember, the one whose name is often preceded with "Saint" -- complains "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." (Rom 7:18) And he warns, "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom 8:8) Isaiah describes us as sheep who have all gone astray (Isa 53:6). Solomon says, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Eccl 7:20). John warns, "If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8). Humans are described as "blinded by the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4) and the Bible says of Natural Man, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14) "Oh," they tell me, "that's your hunch. People aren't all as bad as you describe." Not a hunch, as this limited and long list of biblical texts demonstrates.

And this whole Bible thing itself. Is it my hunch that the Bible is God's Word? In order to shorten this already too long piece, I'm simply going to point you to some other things I've written on the subject. Recently I wrote four articles here on the subject. And look, it is not me, but the Bible itself that claims "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 complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) You decide. Did I offer my conjecture, my intuition, my gut feelings? Or did I offer Scripture (facts) and evident reason (as opposed to "intuition")?

I try to back up what I write with facts. I try to use Scripture ... heavily. I try to demonstrate content and context and give reasons why I conclude what I conclude. I try to be sure that I'm not alone in it, that I'm aligned with historical, orthodox Christian views. Oh, sure, there are hunches, guesses, opinions. But I try to point to those as just that. The stuff I offer as more concrete I offer on the basis of Scripture and evidence. It is no hunch to say, "Christ died for our sins." It's a quote (1 Cor 15:3). It's not hunch to say that Christ is the only way to God. It's a quote (John 14:6). It's no hunch to say that the unsaved face eternal torment. It's a quote (Mark 9:47-48). So when I quote Scripture and say, "God says ..." and you say, "That's just your hunch", that is precisely the same thing as "Did God say ...?" And those who oppose much of what I write do so based on the accusation that it's just my "hunch". You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

God Hates Rich People

While it is not true that God hates rich people, you would still find a reasonably large number of people who affirm that He does. Well, maybe "hate" isn't the right word. How about "despises"? You know, something like "is really unhappy with" or the like. Because, as everyone knows, "Blessed are the poor", right? I mean, doesn't James say, "Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable Name by which you were called? (James 2:6-7) He goes on to say,
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you." (James 5:1-6)
Not good. Not good at all.

So does God hate rich people? Oh, I know, not "hate". You know, like in the biblical sense. Like when we're told "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26) That kind of hate. Does God view rich people with disdain or something like it? Isn't it true that money is the root of all evil? How can it not be so?

So it seems, often from the "Left", that while genuine Christians aren't supposed to hate -- say, homosexuals or fornicators or murderers and the like -- it is certainly right and even ... ahem ... biblical that they should really think poorly of rich people. I mean, isn't that what we see in the Bible?

Let's examine it a minute. First, the logical approach. If it is true that God thinks badly of rich people and so should we, then I suspect you who are reading this are in deep trouble. There isn't likely a single American who would not be classified as "rich" in many (most?) places on the planet. Regardless of that, if you have the computer to read this, you've too much money already. It would seem, then, if this position is true, that Christians ought to embrace a vow of poverty. If, when Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are poor" (Luke 6:20), He did not mean "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt 5:3), but actually that poor people are blessed because they are poor, then it would be unkind to seek to make them other than poor and we would do well to become poor ourselves. You see, there are problems here from a logical perspective.

What about a biblical approach? Well, first, let's clear up a common error. It is not true that money is the root of all evil. The text says that it is the love of money that is the problem. And the actual translation is "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils." (1 Tim 6:10) So let's not go there. The problem there is who you love ... money or God. Always a problem. And clearly God is opposed to ill-gotten gains (Prov 21:6; Prov 22:16; Prov 22:22-23). People who find their consolation and comfort in wealth are in trouble (Luke 6:24). And the call is for us to put our treasure not in banks and goods, but in Christ (Matt 6:19-21). We are told, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt 6:33), but notice how the sentence ends: "and all these things will be added to you." (Matt 6:33)

Over against the "God doesn't like rich people very much" perspective, the Bible seems to argue that either extreme -- poverty or wealth -- are not good.
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?" or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Prov 30:7-9)
We have the example of Job who was wealthy (Job 1:3) by God's gift (Job 1:10), lost it all (Job 1:13-19), and God restored it (Job 42:12). If wealth in itself is evil, why is God giving Job wealth? Solomon warns against being lazy (Prov 6:6-11), where poverty is a result of laziness, and assures us that hard work produces wealth (Prov 10:4). He says, "The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life." (Prov 22:4) It seems that, while the Bible has dire warnings about wealth, it is not accurate that God hates wealthy people ... in any sense of the word "hate". Hate greed? Sure. Ill-gotten gains? Yes. Love of money? Of course. But not simply "wealthy people".

It is clear, biblically, that wealth has the potential for all kinds of problems. We might place our confidence in it. We might seek to get it by faulty means. We might love it. We might worship it. These are all problems. But don't let people tell you, "It's wrong for any good Christian to be wealthy." Especially when the person doing so is well dressed, well fed, and reasonably well off. That's not a good Christian whispering in your ear. It's a liar, a thief, and a murderer. At least that's who the person telling you that wealth is evil is listening to.