Monday, February 29, 2016

The Offense of the Gospel

We saw Risen this last week. Overall, a good movie. Lots of positives.

If you don't know the story, it's about a Roman tribune (played by Joseph Fiennes), Pilate's right hand man, who is tasked with first terminating the Nazarene who was being crucified, then ensuring that He remained buried, then investigating to find out what happened to the body. It's a faith-based movie, so of course he finds out what you readers already know -- Jesus rose from the dead.

I liked how they avoided the more "mystical" approach and kept it more fact-based. You know, no visions or dreams to reveal the truth or some such. He interviews people, talks to the soldiers who guarded the tomb, finds out what they knew, all that kind of stuff. One review site called it "CSI: Jerusalem". And, without modern technology, obviously, he did a fairly good job of hunting down the facts. The followers of Christ were not depicted as airheads like so many other accounts do. Nor were they depicted as saints. They were shown as fallible men convinced almost against their wills of their Messiah's resurrection. You know, "Well, we saw it, so what can we say?" (Simon Peter says at one point, "I'm sorry; I don't have all the answers.") So I liked the more down to earth, factual approach. It shows disciples who, scared and scattered at the crucifixion, were changed by the event. It shows people of faith without being people without brains. Good stuff.

There were some of the expected difficulties. Not a big problem, but some stuff was shown out of sequence. For instance, Jesus tells them after His resurrection that He was going to prepare a place for them, but in the biblical/historical account, that was before the crucifixion. But since the movie was fictional, these kinds of things didn't disturb me. They weren't presenting a factual story. They were presenting a fictional story of a factual event (the Resurrection).

There was only one thing that disappointed. Oh, I know why. But, still. The disciple, Bartholomew, when interrogated by Clavius, the tribune, told him, "If Yeshua was here he'd call you brother." The running theme was love. And that's fine, but that was not Jesus's running theme. Love drove Him to call people to repent (Matt 4:17). Love took Him to the cross. Love caused Him to give His life on our behalf. This is all true. But it wasn't a "love-in" kind of situation. We aren't all brothers (John 1:12; John 8:44). Jesus claimed to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Jesus said, "God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged." But He went on to say, "He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:17-18) In this movie, then, love was emphasized, but repent and believe were not.

Paul says, "We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor 1:23-24) To the Galatians Paul referred to "the offense of the gospel" (Gal 5:11). Now, sure, the whole resurrection thing is tough to swallow. That, in fact, was the point of the movie. And the point of the movie, further, was that there are good reasons to buy the resurrection as fact. So why did they skip the Gospel? Because, while the resurrection is an anomaly, the Gospel is an offense. Christ, crucified on our behalf, dying for our sin ... that is an offense. The context of the Galatians 5 reference was that the Gospel ceases to be offensive when we make it about being good. Because 1) we are sinners worthy of hell, 2) Christ died on our behalf, and 3) by faith our sin can be forgiven is an offense until the Spirit opens our eyes to the Good News. And that was left out of the movie.

Like I said, overall, good stuff. I'm pretty sure God can use it. I was, of course, disturbed by Cliff Curtis as Yeshua, but only because I remember him in too many roles as a terrorist. (That's just supposed to be funny.) I was pleased that they kept us away from an overly spiritualized message. Oh, and it was indeed a lot of fun to watch the "Any luck fishing, guys? Well, throw your nets on the other side" story (John 21:1-7) played out in a movie. It was a fictional story, interspersed with biblical truth. I'd even recommend it. But if you're going to use it as a Gospel tool, be prepared to actually share the Gospel afterward. It didn't do that.

Addendum

I saw this review of the movie. It is a good review ... better than mine. It expresses better than I did what I thought of the movie.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

No Justice, No Peace

We're an odd lot, we human beings. When faced with something we perceive as "unfair", we'll rise up and cry out against "injustice". "No justice, no peace!" you can hear. We want the books balanced. When do we want it? We want it now! Suggest, then, that God is just, and you'll get all sorts of backpedaling. "Oh, no," we'll say, "that's not fair. Sending people to Hell for Cosmic Treason is not justice." Where's the "No justice, no peace" cry now?

Me? I'm terrified of justice. Oh, from humans, it would be nice, I suppose, but if God gave me what I deserved, well, it wouldn't be pleasant. As the psalmist said, "If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (Psa 130:3) Not me. In terms of human justice, perhaps it is true that in the absence of justice there can be no peace, but in terms of our standing before God, I guarantee you justice does not ensure peace. I read the other day that in order for God to remove all evil from the earth, He'd have to wipe out all humanity. Thank God He is merciful!

So I celebrate. I celebrate the point at which God poured out His wrath for me on His Son. I celebrate the moment He made both justice and justification possible. I celebrate His grace and mercy, given in place of His justice. I celebrate the peace of His forgiveness. I don't want "just" from God. Who could stand that? Not me.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Semi-Random Thoughts

Hollywood Stupidity

I'm sorry. I'd like to be more ... tactful, but I can't. Just plain stupid. Raven-Symone of The View has announced, "If any republican gets nominated [for president], I'm going to move to Canada with my entire family." Probably should go now, since she hasn't a clue. By the way, Raven, a republican will be nominated for president. It's the way the system works. A republican will always run against your democrat in a presidential election. Sigh.

On Modern Racism

I'm just wondering out loud here, so to speak, on a matter of racism. Why is it that "Black lives matter" is not a racist concept but "All lives matter" is?

In 2014 CNS News reported that in 2012 in New York City there were more black babies killed by abortion than were born. The story said that 42.4% of the abortions in that city that year were black children. According to CDC statistics, cumulative deaths for African-Americans since 1973 totaled up to 245,322 due to AIDS, 354,392 due to violent crimes, 2,568,040 due to cancer. The biggest one should have been cancer, but beyond that some 15.5 million African-American children died from abortion. In other words, abortion is killing far more black people than cancer or bad cops are.

But "All lives matter" is racist.

Poisoning the Well

Perhaps you've heard of this concept -- "poisoning the well". It's classified as a logical fallacy. The idea is that information opposed to a particular person or idea is sent out preemptively so that no one will listen to the person or idea. It is classified as an argumentum ad hominem because it is aimed at preventing the person or idea from being heard rather than disputing the person or idea. And I know good Christian people who use it regularly (and, in my opinion, wisely) to help prevent their children from going places they should never go. You know, things like "That behavior is a sin" before "that behavior" is even a glint in their child's eye.

Welcome to American politics. I'm truly amazed that this constitutes the bulk of the process of running for office. So, we have ... what ... 17? ... candidates that are, say, running for the Republican nomination. We've got to pick one. (Just an example. The Democrats are doing the same thing.) So, the candidates get up before their constituents and they tell us, "Here's why I make the best candidate for your vote." Oh, wait, no, that's not what they do. They tell us, "Here's why my opponents are failures, losers, even dangerous. Here's why you should not vote for them." You know, "He's not eligible to run" and "She's not qualified" and "This guy stands for everything you hate" and "That one is opposed to America" and so on. Oh, sure, they'll tack on "And I'm better than that", perhaps, but you get the idea. When it's all said and done, you and I vote for what appears to be the least worst candidate (according to all the other candidates). And then we're supposed to stand together (all who voted for their own "least worst", who may not have been the same as yours) on the one who won and back him or her to the presidency. The Democrats play the same sort of game and in the end we get to vote for the two least worst candidates by popular vote and when that vote is done, we're all -- Republican and Democrat and everyone else -- supposed to stand up and cheer, "He/She is our president! Hooray!"

Never mind the years (it at least seems this time around) of messages informing us that the selection we made at the primary as well as the selection we made in the final election was the wrong one. Don't even think about all the accusations offered in the entire course of the contest. This one is our best hope. Run with it. In other words, we spend entire campaigns poisoning the well and then are asked to imbibe the water ... and like it.

I have to wonder how this seems like a good idea. I have to wonder why it is that candidates cannot simply argue, "I'm the best candidate because ..." without attacking their opponents. I have to wonder why the best method of getting votes is the attack method. Well, welcome to the poisoned well at its best. Please be sure to vote for your least-worst candidate when you can. And let's all rally together behind the loser we select.

The Meaning of "Democratic"

So, we understand that the Democratic Party is the party of the people, right? I mean, doesn't "democratic" mean something? As it turns out, not so much. In the caucuses and primary elections held thus far, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have won precisely the same number of delegates based on the votes. But if you look at the media's count -- the standings of the two -- Sanders has 70 delegates and Clinton has 502. Now, wait a minute. How is that? Why such a vast discrepancy between the two? Well, it's the "superdelegate" or "unpledged delegate" system at play. These are Democrat heavies who get to be delegates for whomever they wish regardless of the vote of their people. So while Sanders has gathered 51 (at the time of this writing) delegates thanks to voters and 19 superdelegates because they like him, Clinton has gathered the same 51 due to voters but 451 superdelegates because they like her. Currently, then, Clinton has 502 delegates and Sanders just 70 and the media correctly reports that Clinton is running away with the nomination. It would be a mistake to report that she's doing so at the behest of the voters. They appear evenly split. No, this is the Democratic Party ignoring the voters and putting in whomever they please. Because in this application "democratic" doesn't mean what you think it means. In this application, "democratic" means "You people don't know what you're doing; we know better."

Friday, February 26, 2016

Have I Then Become Your Enemy?

Most of Paul's epistle to the churches of Galatia is focused on a single idea -- justified by faith apart from works. Someone came to those Christians and told them they had to do works to get saved. Paul called it "deserting Him who called in in the grace of Christ" and "a different gospel" (Gal 1:6). Over in chapter 4 he tells them about how God had sent His Son to set them free for adoption as sons of God (Gal 4:4-6) and then wonders, "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?" (Gal 4:9)

Paul was grieving over the Galatian Christians and was not being gentle in his calling them to repentance. He included little delicacies like, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8) and repeated it for emphasis (Gal 1:9). He used warm and gentle phrases like, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" (Gal 3:1) No, not gentle at all.

Then Paul says this: "Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Gal 4:16)

I know the feeling. When does telling them the truth make you their enemy? Well, it would likely be so if there was no love in it, but clearly Paul's words were intended in love. Or it would likely be so if there was love but not truth, but Paul was clearly speaking truth. And, in fact, there is no indication that telling them the truth in love made him their enemy. He was just reminding them that telling the truth in love should not make them enemies.

I'm amazed, then, at how unwilling we are to do the same. I'm sad that so many think that speaking the truth makes you their enemy, even if it is done in love. Paul was warning the Galatian Christians about extremely serious matters. "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace." (Gal 5:4) No matter how you read that, it is serious. Paul was taking Christ seriously and his love for the Galatians seriously. That shouldn't make him their enemy.

Which is it for most of us? Are we afraid of making friends into enemies by speaking the truth in love? When someone about whom we care is indulging in gross sin, do we keep quiet because we don't want to be viewed as an enemy? Or do we not want to make a big deal of a little thing? Because, of course, violating the commands of the Lord of the Universe is no big deal, right? As for me, I'm ashamed at times. I prefer to keep peace between me and people I care about rather than warn them as Paul did of the consequences of their choices. In order to avoid conflict with them, I minimize God's commands and the consequences of violating them. In the end, it is neither truth nor love.

Will it make some view you as an enemy to speak the truth in love? It will, no doubt. So you have to ask yourself, at what cost peace? Because offending the God of All in favor of human conciliation is a pretty high cost and speaks poorly of our priorities, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Peace, Not Peace

There is an element of Christendom that calls for Pacifism for Christians. This element believes that any form of violence is sin. They make this argument almost exclusively based on the belief that Jesus was a pacifist and taught it. You know, "Turn the other cheek" and things like that. Instead, they believe, He came to bring peace and we ought to do the same. However, most Christians disagree.

Let's begin with a basic requirement. What does the Bible teach? Let's take our position from God's Word rather than make God's Word take our position. Let's go with what we see in Scripture rather than any other primary source. If you are opposed to Pacifism and see in Scripture that it teaches it, you ought to change your opposition. And the reverse is equally true. So I am not interested in what you (or I) think or feel (at least not in this article). Sure, "Oh, yeah, well what would you do if your family was being attacked?" may sound compelling, but "What would you do?" might just be wrong. What does the Bible teach?

The Bible undeniably does not teach Pacifism in the entirety of the text. As an example, God is quoted as saying, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man." (Gen 9:6) Pacifists will argue that this is no longer in effect or that Jesus altered it in some sense, but it is abundantly clear that this text clearly has God in favor of the death penalty in cases of murder. Paul reiterates this in his commending of civil authorities to Christians when he writes, "for [civil authorities are] a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." (Rom 13:4) Paul does not suggest that they should not bear the sword, but that they do so for a good reason. In Numbers 32 Moses told the people that in order to obey God and take Canaan, they would need to "arm yourselves before the LORD for the war" followed by instructions to drive out the people that occupied the land (Num 32:20-22). He concluded, "But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out." (Num 32:23) Get that? It was a sin to fail to go to war in that context. An interesting text says that God left enemies of Israel in Canaan "in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly." (Judges 3:1-2) God planned to test Israel and teach war. All this is well and good, but the statement in Scripture that is hardest to set aside for Pacifism is the claim that "The LORD is a warrior" (Exo 15:3). David wrote, "Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle." (Psa 24:8) If God does not change (1 Sam 15:29; Mal 3:6), then He is still a warrior, mighty in battle.

But ... didn't Jesus teach peace? We need to examine that because if the Pacifist view is right, we're going to have a problem. Mind you, having a problem may not be a bad thing. But if Jesus preached Pacifism, He did so in opposition to the clear presentation of the Old Testament regarding the commands and nature of His Father. "That's okay," some will tell you, "Jesus modified the Old Testament." So, as I said, having a problem may not be a bad thing if you're fine with God the Son modifying God the Father. But surely it would be better if we could find correlation rather than contradiction between the two. Did Jesus teach peace? Is Pacifism the only biblical position?

Certainly there are enough texts to give you reasons to think so.
"I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matt 5:39)

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matt 5:43-44)

"All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matt 26:52)

"Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead." (1 Peter 3:9)

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:21)
At Jesus's birth the angels specifically declared, "On earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14) Jesus told His disciples, "Be at peace with one another" (Mark 9:50) In the upper room at the end of His life He told them, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." (John 14:27) Later Paul commanded, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Rom 12:18) It all seems pretty clear. Why even ask any further? And well we shouldn't if it weren't for one little fact. Concluding here creates an undeniable contradiction between God the Father and God the Son. And that creates a contradiction in Christ Himself, as He said He was about speaking His Father's words and doing His Father's works. So ... was He? Or was He revising God? Clearly we need to come to a correlation rather than a contradiction.

I think the problem arises with an incomplete comprehension of peace. While we're happily bounding along on all the "peace" passages and concluding that Jesus preached peace, we've managed to completely ignore the fact that Jesus said He didn't. "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household." (Matt 10:34-36) Well, now, that's a problem, isn't it? "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." So what's that all about? I think it's that failure to grasp peace. You see, there is more than one kind of peace. There is tranquility and there is the cessation of hostilities. Jesus definitely came to bring a cessation of hostilities between a righteously angry God and His sinful creation. But that doesn't translate into a cessation of hostilities between people, as Jesus so specifically states. The peace that Jesus brings is peace with God, not peace with everyone else.

It was Jesus who "made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables" (John 2:15). It was Jesus who said He came not to bring peace, but a sword. It was Jesus who said He was about His Father's business. If we are going to align the Son with the Father, the absolutism of Pacifism won't work. Of course, neither will vengeance (Rom 12:19), hate (Matt 5:44), or so many other of the motivations people have for violence. As such, we ought to be known as the least belligerent people on the planet (Rom 12:18). It's just that absolute Pacifism makes the Father into a sinner, the Son into a self-contradiction, and the rest of Scripture on the subject a confused jumble. Correlating Scripture with Scripture, God with God, Christ with Christ, and Father with Son are all essential. Let's not take a contradictory position and claim it is a better version of Jesus.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Find the Pharisee

In Matthew 15 the Pharisees complain to Jesus about His disciples' unclean eating habits.
"Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God," he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matt 15:2-9)
Quite an indictment. The Pharisees were "teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." They claimed to love God but invalidated God's Word by substituting something "better". Of course, the Pharisees weren't unique. We still have that today.

We have Christ stating "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Matt 19:4-5) while they counter with "marriage is the union of any two people" because that's the more popular view today ... more "inclusive". We read "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12) and "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6), but the Catholic News Agency released a video in January of Pope Francis declaring that all religions are different paths to the same God. We have God's declaration that "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image" (Gen 9:6), but the left argues that the higher right is the right of the woman to execute her baby before he or she is born. The Word is not unclear that "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), but self-proclaimed Christians argue that "loving relationships" nullify that statement.

People complain that taking the Bible at face value is "pharisaical". They say we should be more like Jesus. It would appear that Jesus thought that choosing to follow the commandments of men over the Word of God was one of the primary errors of the Pharisees. So which side is "pharisaical"?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Moralism

Christians read in their Bibles -- you know, the Word of God -- that it is a sin (for instance) to engage in homosexual practices, so they say it is a sin. They read that humans are made in the image of God and murder is a sin, so they say that killing humans in the womb is a sin. They see that sexual relations outside of marriage is sin, so they consider sexual relations outside of marriage to be sin. It's not rocket science. What is, apparently, difficult to figure out is just why we say these kinds of things.

The world would like to argue that we say it because we're haters. Simple. Simple, but wrong. Well, let's not be too hasty. Mostly wrong. Because there are indeed people who say that homosexual behavior is a sin because they are haters. But let's just talk about those who say, "Well, would you look at that? God says it's a sin, so I have to call it that." Not haters.

But why call it sin out loud? I mean, sure, we can think things that the Bible calls sin are actually sin, but why say so? And I think here we run into another problem.

Why do Christians stand firm on issues that Scripture (God's Word) calls sin? Why do we point it out? The problem here, I think, is not merely the world's notions of why. The problem here is that too many Christians don't know why. You see, I think there is a big problem in Christian circles in failing to grasp the very basic idea of the Gospel. We seem to think that our job -- God's job, too, mind you -- is to try to make bad people into good people. Thus, if X is bad, it is our job, our duty, to point out that X is bad so they will stop. I call that "moralism". We're trying to "legislate" (whether we go through legislation or not) other people's morality. "This is bad; stop doing it." And, try as I might, I can't find that in Scripture.

So why should we be standing firm on these kinds of things? It is not because we're trying to reform people. The Bible calls them "dead in sin" (Eph 2:1). There. Go ahead. Reform that. No, that's not the aim. The aim is to point out to dead sinners that they're dead sinners. Only when they've seen this abundantly clear fact from the Bible can they take the absolutely necessary step of getting help. And what help is there for dead sinners? Well, of course, Christ and Him alone. Oh, and we have that to offer! See? Good news!

The way it works right now is that the god of this world has blinded unbelievers. So they're strolling along in their homosexual sin and their fornication and the entire list of other sins, and they're thinking, "I'm not so bad; at least I haven't murdered anyone today." If we say to ourselves, "Well, that is sin, but I'm not going to say anything because we're not trying to make bad people into good people and we're not trying to moralize and we're certainly not trying to irritate people," then they keep walking, happy in their sin. But if we say, "You know, God says that what you're doing is sin," God can use that fact to awaken them to their need for Him and you get the chance to give them the Gospel that faith in Christ can solve that sin problem. And that is why it's not "hate".

We are not in the business of making our world better. That is, making people more moral is not going to solve their sin problem. If we care about people, we will need to, first, show them the problem in order to, second, offer them the solution. If they don't know there's a problem, they won't care about your solution. Moralism is not the aim. Sharing the Gospel is.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Drafting Egalitarians

There is dissension these days over the suggestion of requiring young women to register for Selective Service in America. It was a question asked of some of the candidates in a recent GOP debate. All three said they should register. Cruz wasn't asked, but later told an interviewer that he was opposed to it. Providence, A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy (how those two things are stuck together I'm not sure), has an article about Women at War & the GOP and the (wrong) answers from the three who answered. The ERLC, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, calls it "Experimental barbarism". Joe Carter at the Gospel Coalition (TGC) has a brief overview of the situation. Many (most?) are up in arms about the notion of drafting women into combat.

I find it confusing, myself. Oh, mind you, I'm opposed to drafting women into combat. No question. But I'm opposed to putting women into combat. So if I was a candidate for president (I know, ridiculous ... thus, the "if") and was asked the question of whether women should be registered for Selective Service, my answer would have been a firm, "No ... nor should they be put in combat at all." And therein you find the confusion. Because, you see, saying that women should not be drafted is kind and caring, but saying that they should not be in combat is sexist. Thus, from a perspective of equality (meaning "same" or "fair"), if you're going to demand equal opportunity for women to go out and get killed in combat, you must also require equal opportunity for women to get drafted.

This, of course, is "too equal". Using a less contentious example, I was taught to open doors for ladies. Radical feminism made some women complain that I did so. On the other hand, they would also complain if I didn't. What was desired was "what I want when I want it", not actual equality. Equally so in this situation. They want to require that women be allowed to serve in combat positions if they desire because that would be "equality". But for the most part men don't get that option. They must serve in combat positions if they enlist or are drafted. Women want equality if it means voluntarily serving in these roles, but they don't want equality if it means being coerced (as men are) into these roles. And this isn't new. The military has always had different standards for men and for women. Men had to carry more, run farther, do dirtier work and so on. It was expected. Demand equal standards of men and women, and women would be up in arms. (Surely you could snicker at that pun, right?)

So, is it egalitarianism that is being sought, or is it "What I want when I want it"? Is equality in view or are some "more equal than others"1? I'm appalled that women are being admitted into combat roles because I have a higher view of women than that, but my view (stated like that) is now "sexist". On the other hand, it is equally offensive to argue that if men are drafted against their will, equality includes drafting women as well. On what grounds do the egalitarians argue otherwise? And "Oh, I know a gal who could certainly do the job" is not an answer. That's an aberration. We don't make policy based on the aberration. I don't see how it makes sense to put the best of humanity into the worst task that humanity has -- war. Conversely, I don't see how, having decided to do so, it can be argued that they shouldn't have the same standards and mandates that their male counterparts have. In this cry for equality, double standards seem to abound.
________
1 In George Orwell's Animal Farm, a satire of Communism where animals take over the farm and seek to bring about a utopian community, the animals discover that while "all animals are equal" supposedly, they're not all being treated equally, to which the leaders respond, "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Not To Us

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?" Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases. (Psa 115:1-3)
"To Your name give glory." This concept, central in Scripture (and in God's mind), is far from our thinking. Our inborn pride drives us to find glory for ourselves, to show ourselves off, to minimize everyone and everything in order to maximize ourselves. It is the first effect of the sin nature.

Oh, that we would live "Not to us". That would require a singular focus on Him, on His steadfast love, on His faithfulness. It would require a clear vision of His Sovereignty. "Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases." You see, if we were convinced of His steadfast love and faithfulness and confident that He does all that He pleases, we wouldn't be our primary focus. We wouldn't need to be. We wouldn't want to be. Convinced of His mercy and truth, His Sovereignty would be all we would need to rest in Him. We could join the universe in declaring His glory (Psa 19:1) rather than clamoring for our own.

It's like the familiar hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (1922), says.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace
In a world devoted to self and self-glory, a world cluttered with "stuff", "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory" is the message we need to keep ever before us.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Conservatism Denied

Those on the political right like to call themselves "conservatives". Unlike the lie thrown by some liberals on that term, it is not a reference to "keeping things for myself" as opposed to "liberals" who "give things to others" (as long as the things they give belong to others), "conservative" is a reference to keeping things as they are. Liberals -- perhaps better, progressives -- wish to move on. The misnomer of "progressive" is the suggestion that "progress is good." Sorry. No such thing. Progress is simply moving forward or onward. And convervativism is the desire not to move on.

So the conservatives will nod and say, "Yeah, we want to keep things as they are." While it might be a good notion, it is not a possibility. Consider. In 1950 the average family income was $3,300, the average car cost $1,510, and the median home price was $7,354. Home price to income ratio was 2.2. Car price to income ratio was 0.45. Today ... it is not. The average family income in 2014 was $51,000, the average car cost $31,250, and the median home price was $188,900. Home price to income ratio is 3.7. Car price to income ratio is 0.61. So much for keeping things as they were. But, of course, prices are not what is in mind when we talk about conservativism. So, consider scenarios from 1950 and today. Jack pulls into the school parking lot with a shotgun in the pick up truck gun rack after going quail hunting before school. In 1950 the principal would have got out his shotgun to show jack. Today they lock down the school, call the authorities, and bring in trauma counselors. Or try another. Johnny is disruptive in class. In 1950 he is sent to the principal's office for a good paddling and likely to face another one when he gets home. Disrupting class doesn't seem like such a good idea anymore. Today they medicate Johnny and berate the teacher for being overly sensitive. How about this one? Billy gets hold of some firecrackers, loads them into a model plane, lights them and throws the plane. In 1950, the plane blows up and dad sits him down to explain safer ways to blow things up with firecrackers. Today Homeland Security is called and Billy is toted off to detention for bomb-making. One I'm quite familiar with. John is an adult working with the church youth. The kids love him. When they come to church they run to get hugs from John. In 1950, John would have been a delight, appreciated by family, friends, and youth as a mentor and caring guy. Today he would be fired and investigated for possibly molesting children. From a religious perspective, at one time immoral people were investigated and suspected; today God is doubted and questioned. In earlier days there was an external good to which we must conform and today good is defined by self-expression and no one has the right to suggest otherwise. No, it's not just prices that have changed.

The problem, then, is just what the conservatives wish to conserve. I'm pretty sure prices aren't on the list, but if it was freedom, they're too late. We've already surrendered that for the sake of safety and security and other things deemed more important. If it was family values, it's too late. They've already shifted so far that what was once considered valuable is no longer even recognizable. From a time when men would have been embarrassed that their wives had to work to today's practically mandatory two-income family, from a day when mothers took care of their children rather than day-care and nursery school, from an era when "My parents are divorced" was rare and sad to a day when "Your parents are still married?" is a surprise, from an era when the liberal democrats represented values farther right than the conservative republicans hold today, we've moved so far that "conservative" no longer has much of a meaning. Conserve what? Rather than holding ground, conservatives are mostly what Dabney called "the shadow that follows radicalism to perdition." Sure, we're behind them, but not very far. You can see it in the radical shift in views on marriage or the sudden turn to women in combat. You can see it in the lack of serious fight over abortion and the waning of Christian influence in government. Compare Democratic President Truman's 1950 Christmas Eve Address with bold references to Christ, Christmas, prayer, faith, and Christianity to today's "We all worship the same God" versions from a variety of government voices.

Conserve? Too late. It looks a lot like we're just dragging our feet as we follow the "progressives" to the fires they're stoking and hardly seem to notice that it's getting hot. It is small satisfaction to note that they're willing to jump in first since we will be right behind ... "conserving".

Friday, February 19, 2016

Outrageous Justice

There are, in God's nature, three interlinked attributes -- justice, grace, and mercy. Justice is that which is right, deserved, earned, owed. Grace is being given the good which is not earned or owed. Mercy is not being given the punishment that is earned or owed. Thus, both grace and mercy, in a sense, are justice denied.

In the Old Testament, God's justice was assumed. When God told Abraham about His plan to annihilate Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham's question (rhetorical) was, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?" (Gen 18:25). That is, "Of course He will!" And ... He did. So in earlier days of Christianity there was a philosophical problem dealing with grace and mercy. How can a just God be gracious and merciful? How can a just God not be just?

We're long past that today. Many of us have moved beyond the concept of a just God and have landed squarely on a merciful God. Indeed, it is hotly debated in some circles that God cannot be just. Oh, no, they don't make that argument. What they say is "God will not judge people; He's gracious." They say, "God wouldn't send people to Hell; He's too merciful." They pit God's grace and mercy against ultimate justice and leave God without the latter. Try as you might to argue that God is just and God does damn those who deserve it, you will be met with stiff with resistance because "My God is a kind, loving, merciful God who shows grace, not wrath." This translates into Rob Bell's Love Wins or universalism or simply skipping over the plain texts that say otherwise.

This approach of pitting one attribute against another is not new. People do it with Scripture all the time. "Well, this passage opposes that one" (technically, "appears to oppose"), "so this one is right and that one is wrong." There is no effort to align them or adjust our own understanding. "Jesus nullified much of the Old Testament" or "Paul nullified the Law" or "The love and compassion of Christ nullified the wrath and justice of God", and we're at rest again. Except we aren't. We've simply created a contradiction that must be resolved.

There was a time when believers were amazed by grace. Why? Because grace was opposed to justice, and justice was right, was what was deserved, was what was expected. But we became accustomed to His grace. And now we demand it. No justice will do. The justice of God is outrageous and won't be tolerated. All I can say is tell it to the Judge. See how that goes for you. We need to see how God's grace and mercy work with His justice, not in opposition to it. Only then do grace and mercy become amazing and God is magnified.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Satan's Strategy

When His disciples confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt 16:13-16), Jesus started telling them that the plan was for Him to suffer and die and be raised again (Matt 16:21). Peter objected. Jesus responded in what might appear a schizophrenic way.
"Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." (Matt 16:23)
It might seem to be confused because He told Peter "Get behind Me, Satan." Now, we know Peter was not Satan, so what was He saying? The term was Σατανᾶς -- satanas -- most literally "the accuser" or the adversary. Either Peter was being influenced by Satan himself, or, at the very least, Peter was responding as Satan would. What, then, did Jesus see that clued Him into the adversarial response of Peter? I mean, Peter appeared to be defending Jesus. "This shall never happen to You," he said (Matt 16:22). That was an adversary? Jesus characterized the work of a Satan, be it a human or a human influenced by Satan, this way. "You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." There you have the primary scheme of Satan.

We do it all the time. All of us, at least some of the time. I heard it the other day in church. "Jesus's primary motivation," one nice lady told us, "was compassion for people." Now, it is true that Jesus had compassion for people, but that was not His primary motivation. "My Father's business" was Jesus's primary concern (Luke 2:49). "The will of My Father" was His primary concern (e.g. Matt 7:21; Matt 12:50; Matt 18:14; Matt 26:39) Honoring His Father was at the forefront of His thoughts (John 8:49). Doing the work of His Father was His life's ambition (John 10:37). Jesus's High Priestly prayer began with "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You." (John 17:1) Glorifying His Father was Jesus's highest passion (John 12:28). And, yet, we're all pretty sure that we are His highest concern. "You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

We see it all the time. Self-identified Christians will start their reasoning with "Man is important here" and proceed to conclusions like "God cannot be absolutely sovereign" or "God cannot be Omniscient" or "God's highest calling is for us to feed the poor" or "save the planet" or whatever other "social justice" cause they deem important. Every time it appears to be a twist, not setting their minds on the things of God, but on the things of man.

We do it ourselves. Unpleasant things happen and we rail against God for being unfair because bad things shouldn't happen to good people. We don't get that job or we come down with cancer or we lose a loved one and God has failed us because we don't deserve that. We are not setting our minds on the things of God, but on the things of man.

It's a key clue. Is it of God or is it of Satan? Ask yourself if it is amplifying man and diminishing God. Ask yourself if the primary consideration is man or God. John the Baptist said, "He must increase and I must decrease." (John 3:30) That is the kind of thinking we must employ. That is the thinking that runs counter to Satan's scheme. But, be sure of this. That kind of thinking is not natural. It's supernatural.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Christ Had Compassion

One of those very heartwarming passages in the story of Christ is found in Matthew 9.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." (Matt 9:35-38)
We really like the compassion of Christ. It is indeed heartwarming. And if, as Jesus later describes, the point of being a disciple of Christ is "for the disciple to be like his teacher" (Matt 10:25), we ought to also have that compassion. So, where was Christ's compassion?

At first blush it looks like Christ had compassion on the crowds because of their afflictions, because "they were harassed and helpless." It looks like His compassion was focused on their tough lives. But that doesn't make any sense with what He says in the throes of that compassion. He references "the harvest". What is that? That references the people ready to receive the Gospel, ready to be "plucked for Christ", so to speak. They were ripe for the good news. For people to come to Christ there must be some pieces in place. There must be a sense of need, and there must be those ready to share the answer. Jesus told His disciples to pray for the latter because the former was already in place. So Christ's compassion is regarding the great need caused by their sin condition, not by their earthly circumstances.

There are, however, some unusual components here.

First, Jesus told the disciples to go and harvest. No, wait, He didn't. He didn't say, "You will be My harvesters." He told them to pray. He told them to pray earnestly. Clearly these disciples were not the harvesters He had in mind. Oh, sure, He did have these in mind, as the very next thing He did was to send them out to do that work (Matt 10:1-15 and following). But He had more in mind. So, before doing the work of harvesting, "pray earnestly."

Second, it is interesting that Jesus said to pray that the Lord would send laborers into "His harvest." Sure, these whom He would send would be going His work, but it wasn't their harvest; it was His. We don't achieve this on our own. It is His.

Third, isn't it interesting that Scripture calls it compassion that Christ wanted laborers to call to repentance the harvest? It wasn't compassion to embrace them in their sin, to encourage them in their spiritual sickness. Compassion in these terms is not found in today's "tolerance" where we approve and encourage their sin. Compassion in these terms is found in giving them the way to turn from their sin. In this sense, then, warning a sinner away from sin is not "hate" as is so often touted today; it is compassion1.

We are, as disciples of Christ, to be like Christ. That includes praying for laborers. That includes taking part in the labor, knowing it is God's work and God's results. That includes compassion that longs for others to turn from their sin to something much, much better -- Christ. That is being a disciple of Christ.
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1 Note for those of you folk who find sinners (at least, certain sinners) repulsive. You may see it as some sort of "righteous indignation" you are experiencing, but it is more like "self-righteous indignation" when you find repugnant those who sin. Jesus had compassion for sinners even while seeking repentance from their sin. If you want to be like Christ, that, too, should be your experience. If it is not, perhaps you've forgotten how much you have been forgiven? Because "those who sin" includes you and me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Living Constitution

I've often written about the problem of the fluid language we call English. Oh, of course it changes. How could it not? English speakers of the 17th century, for instance, had no perception of capillary electrophoresis (yeah, I know, most of you don't either), so when that concept came around, we had to invent a term. New terms or borrowed terms are needed as new things occur. It's a given. But we've moved beyond that in the last 50 years or so. Modernism argued that reality could be determined by reason and evidence. Post-modernism has discarded Modernism in favor of feelings. In this "Age of Empathy", reality is how you feel it is. Thus, if a guy feels like he's a girl, our society says he is. Well, a primary component of the Post-modernism is the argument that words do not mean anything more than what we want them to mean. Words express ideas. Ideas are fluid. So words are fluid. The problem, though, is that if words express ideas and you may or may not have the same ideas about the words I'm using that I do, the possibility of actually transmitting my ideas to you is extremely poor. By making language fluid, communication becomes difficult at best.

The problem arises not when words are simply changed, but when their ideas are changed. Consider this. Once we held that pornography should not be allowed in our communities, but that free speech was protected. No problem. Except they figured out that if they could stretch "speech" to include "naked bodies engaged in graphic sexual perversions", well, then, it would be protected. And the courts bought that. Some years ago Facebook had a rule in place that pictures of nudity would not be allowed. So now they're being sued in France because they cancelled the account of a guy back when the "no nudity" rule was in place and he posted a photo of a nude painting. Facebook says that more recently they changed the rule so that art would be allowed, so nude art was okay. You see where this is going, don't you? Shift "speech" to include "graphic sex" and you have it protected. Shift "art" to include "pictures of me and three of my closest friends engaged in all manner of sexual escapades" and Facebook will have nothing to say. These aren't shifts in words; they're shifts in concepts.

But this isn't about words. It's about another fluid concept. Perhaps you've never heard of the Living Constitution idea. It stands in contrast with what is called "Originalism" which holds that the U.S. Constitution has a meaning, an original meaning, unchanged and without variation. The Living Constitution concept, then, is that our Constitution is dynamic, a sort of animate being that grows and changes to fit the need. While Originalism holds that we need to view our laws through the lens of the 18th century framers of our Constitution, the Living Constitution interpretation would say that the views and desires of the current society should be included in interpretation of the Constitution. Things change; so should our Constitution.

Of course, we've always had the ability to change the Constitution, as evidenced by the 27 amendments to it. The Bill of Rights started as amendments to our Constitution, clarifications required to avoid problems with the original document. Change is included in the concept of the Constitution. But that's not the idea of the Living Constitution. No, that one makes the Constitution as fluid as today's version of gender. It means whatever the court of the day says it means. And when they say it, it becomes permanent law.

As you can imagine, the "Originalism" position is staked out by conservatives while the "Living Constitution" notion is preferred by progressives. That shouldn't be news to anyone. Of the nine justices, it has been regularly considered that Justices Alito, Thomas, and Scalia were the most conservative, with Roberts conservative-leaning. Justices Kennedy and Breyer have been mostly moderate. From there we pile up an increasingly progressive set of Justices. With the death of Justice Scalia, we see the possibility of a sharp change to the court. President Obama appointed the two most progressive Justices on the court, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. If he nominates the next Justice, don't look for a conservative. Here's the problem. The more progressives placed on the Supreme Court, the less meaningful content is found in the Constitution. If, in fact, the Living Constitution version wins out, the reinterpretation of your freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom of religion, whatever God-given rights you may think your Constitution protects will be up for grabs, ripe for reinterpretation, victims of the views and desires of the current society as interpreted by the current court. And if President Obama gets to install a third Supreme Court Justice before he leaves office, count on it.

What am I suggesting? Campaign? Obstruct? Raise an outcry? Well, no. That's not me. I am suggesting that Christians everywhere pray. I am suggesting it because it's biblical. "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." (1 Tim 2:1-2) Do you feel the need to do something more? Then do it (within limits, of course). But don't neglect this. I suspect that too many of us already have.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Christians and the Socialist Democrat

Here's a new one to me. "Christians who take Jesus's words seriously would support Bernie Sanders for president." As it turns out, there are those that argue that this is true.

Looking at how he plans to pay for his proposals, here's where Bernie Sanders stands. "The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time." Thus, he will tax corporations on offshore tax havens (estimated at near $100 billion annually) to pay for the $1 trillion plan to rebuild infrastructure because Jesus favored taxing companies to make jobs. He would tax Wall Street speculators to pay for universal free college education and reducing college loan debt because Jesus opposed Wall Street speculators and favored free college education. If there had been demonstrations in Jesus's day calling for free education, Jesus would have been right there with them, we're pretty sure. He would expand Social Security by making the wealthy pay a higher percentage because Jesus favored forcing rich people to pay for the needs of the poor. He would create a $5.5 billion youth jobs program by closing a tax loophole on billionaire hedge fund managers because ... well, we already established that Jesus favored forcing rich people to pay for the needs of poor people. (Isn't it funny that in one breath Christians will argue that God doesn't want puppets and true obedience must be voluntary to be of any value, then in the next they will favor heavy taxation of the wealthy in order to force them to be more "generous" toward those with less?) He will protect pensions by closing tax loopholes on inherited money because Jesus both despised inherited money and favored pensions. "Charity begins at home," they say, and by that they mean "At the homes of people who make much more than I do" and "By force if necessary." Other expensive plans of his would include a required 12-week paid family leave for all workers and universal healthcare for all Americans paid for by, you guessed it, more taxes. But, don't worry, this time it's much more expansive. The paid leave would just cost ever working American about $85 (more) a year in taxes and the universal healthcare is a simple 6.2% for employers and 2.2% for workers along with "progressive income tax rates, taxing capital gains and dividends the same as income from work, limiting tax deductions for the rich, adjusting the estate tax, and savings from health tax expenditures." Because Jesus certainly favored paid family leave and universal healthcare. In the mind of a country that has declared "Believe what you want, but keep your God out of the public square", these are divinely-granted human rights, don't you know? At least, Jesus would have said so.

I don't understand any of this. Some may surely see these things as "good" or "wise" (I don't really know how, but that's okay -- I'm tolerant), but in what world is it "Christian", as in, "what Jesus taught"? When did Jesus favor taking from the rich to give to the poor? When did Jesus address income inequality, education, a living wage, climate change, or tax reform? Without even addressing the truth, reasonableness, or wisdom of such things, when did it become about Jesus? Because as far as my Bible reads, there isn't word one about any of that stuff.

They complain that Christians like me think that homosexual behavior is a sin (without actually suggesting that anyone pass laws to change it) or that marriage is between a man and a woman (without actually arguing that people who engage in homosexual practices shouldn't be allowed to be in a relationship) or that males are males and females are females and never the DNA shall meet (without actually demanding laws that prevent people from believing they are a gender other than they are) and worry that we are a threat to society. They want to undercut the people that make jobs for people, force those with money to give it to those they deem do not, and gut the free enterprise system. And we're the threat? We hold "this is right and that is wrong and we would like to introduce you to Jesus who will save you from your wrong" and they wish to determine your income and your values and we're the threat?

Vote for a socialist democrat if you like, but, please, don't equate it to anything like "Jesus's words". It just says that you don't know what Jesus was all about. The church -- most of us, at some time or another -- often makes the mistake of making moralism their cause. You know, making bad people into good people. That was not Jesus's aim. He did point out what was right and wrong, but not to get people to be right. His message was "Repent" and His call was "Come to Me" and His concern was redeeming sinners, not moralism. He said, "You must be born again", not "You've got to be good little boys and girls." When people make income inequality, free education, or taking from the rich to give to the poor a reflection of Jesus's words, they miss the point.
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Postscript: When Sanders' "real family values" include liberal abortion policies and strong LGBTQ rights positions and hinges on "family leave", you have to wonder what those words mean -- "real family values". Kill babies at any point of life prior to passing through the birth canal, erase the meaning of marriage and the natural family in favor of some other version, and call it "real family values" because at least you can get some time off for sickness or vacation. (Yes, vacation.) Favor Sanders if you will, but do not call it "real family values" or "like Christ".

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day?

Martyred on February 14 in the third century A.D., St. Valentine is now our inspiration for a day of romance. Oh, wait, what?

Valentinius was a real person who died around 270 A.D. There are questions as to his actual existence, his acts, and even his martyrdom. But one account has him being beheaded by Roman Emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed. Thus the romantic angle. Except, of course, that not even the Roman Catholic Church is sure about that story. Valentinius -- St. Valentine to us -- is the patron saint of beekeepers and epileptics, apparently. No idea of where that connection leads. One suggestion is that Geoffrey Chaucer, the medieval English poet, took some liberties with history and invented Valentine's Day using fictitious hitorical accounts. In 1375 he wrote about a feast day for Saint Valentine that, from historical records, had no prior reference.

Others trace the origin to an ancient Roman feast, the Feast of Lupercalia. February 14 was a holiday to honor Juno, the queen of Roman gods and goddesses and particularly the goddess of women and marriage. February 15th was the Feast of Lupercalia which began a fertility festival. Well, I'm sure you can get the connection of "love" and "February 14th" there ... except, of course, not to "St. Valentine". Well, apparently the Emperor Claudius II was engaging in wars for which he was having trouble getting volunteer soldiers. He believed it was due to their not wanting to leave wives and families. So Claudius cancelled marriages. Enter Valentinius ... and we're back to the beheaded priest.

CBN reports a different version. Valentine was encouraging couples to marry in the Church over against both the emperor's ban and the prevailing polygamy of the day. He was urging Christian marriage. He did it secretly because of the ban. In this account he was sentenced to a three-part execution which included beatings, stoning, and finally beheading. Valentine, then, really did lose his head over love.

Of course, there will be those today who will say, "It's a Catholic thing and we shouldn't be taking part" simply because it's Catholic. Others say, "We shouldn't be taking part" because, as everyone knows, Christians shouldn't celebrate holidays or, at least, "secular" holidays (over against Col 2:16). Dr. Stephen Kim offers 7 Reasons Why Christians Should Not Celebrate Valentine's Day, including the need to flee sexual immorality, it doesn't celebrate the person of Christ, it is too "Catholic", it replaces a pagan feast, we shouldn't need a holiday to remind us to love, we should avoid unhealthy peer pressure for our youth, and we should avoid unwarranted pressure on the unmarried. Well, that ought to settle that. Except, of course, it doesn't.

Bottom line, we don't know the actual origin of St. Valentine's Day or the actual person who inspired it. (Accounts vary and include three different men for that role.) As for the argument that the day was intended to redeem a pagan feast day, as Justin Taylor points out, "Judging by today’s customs I’d say the scheme wasn’t altogether successful." Having said that, today is Sunday, a day set aside by Christianity for the celebration of the resurrection ... repeatedly. What wondrous love! And love between husband and wife is celebrated in Scripture. While we shouldn't need reminders, it's not bad to have them. So for those of you celebrating the love of God and the love for a spouse, I say "Indulge!"

Let me say, then, in closing, I love my wife, and that love includes a component pointing to the profound mystery that is Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32). Beyond that, you're on your own.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Things You Will (Likely) Never Hear

"Does this dress make me look too thin?"

"You know, honey, I think I'll redecorate my man cave to make it more family-oriented."

"Thanks, dear, but this diamond ring you gave me is way too big."

"Yeah, I know the big game's on tonight, but I don't need to watch it. Let's just talk."

"I cannot wait to explain sex to my kids."

"Perhaps I've been complaining too much lately. I think I'll try to learn to be contented."

"I'm one of the richest liberals in America, so I plan to give away 99% of my assets because being one of the '1%' is unfair."

"Thanks for the free government money. No more. I have enough."

"I think our political party might have too much power."

Friday, February 12, 2016

To Vote or Not To Vote?

Is it an obligation for Christians to vote? We were discussing this over in How Did This Happen?. I can find nothing in Scripture, obviously, so the answer is not as clear as one might think.

David Lipscomb, a 19th century Christian leader, wrote Civil Government and argued that Christians should not vote based on passages like Daniel 2:21 and Daniel 4:17 that suggest that God puts into office whom He will. Early Christians refused to involve themselves in civil government because those were temporal affairs and their concerns were eternal and spiritual. This ignores the fact that God uses people in His work like He used Samuel to crown a king for Israel (1 Sam 8:5). One side argues that your vote doesn't matter and the other argues that no vote is a vote for evil. One side says you must vote for the lesser evil and the other says no vote at all absolves you from being responsible for voting in evil. Then there's the whole "Is it a sin not to vote?" question, which spawns the "Is it a sin to vote different than I think you should?" corollary and ... well, you can see how this would get sticky. I know there are those who call themselves Christians who voted for Obama and others who call themselves Christians who considered that a sin, but they also consider it a sin to have not voted at all.

It is true that we need to be in submission to civil authority (Rom 13:1), and some argue that this includes voting. They do it by pointing out that the authority in America is ... the people. That seems rather thin. And while we are indeed supposed to be lights in this world, to be a voice for Christ, to stand firm, to defend the faith -- all that good stuff -- it is equally thin to argue that good citizenship (exemplified in voting) is a way to do this.

It is undeniable that my vote will not decide the direction of this country's leadership ... either way. In fact, if "No taxation without representation" is right, I should not have been taxed for a long, long time since I have rarely if ever been represented in our government. But, of course, if I don't vote, I couldn't complain about that, could I? If I don't vote, what right do I have to say anything about the political situation of my world?

Of course, if you decide that the right thing to do is to vote, you run into a new sticky question. How? We tend to vote on matters like immigration and abortion and taxation and ... well, you know, political and civil stuff. Our marching orders, on the other hand, are on the spiritual side. Make disciples. Love your neighbor. Preach the Gospel. Pray. That kind of thing. So if you decide to vote, it would seem paramount that you vote on matters of spiritual importance based on biblical values. Now try to do that in the American political climate.

In the end I see it as a Romans 14 issue, a "Christian Liberty" question. "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves." (Rom 14:22) But, remember, "whatever is not from faith is sin." (Rom 14:23) I am, of course, always open to a different point of view on this.
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Postscript. For a different perspective (because I have no intention of suggesting that mine is the only right one, especially on this point), see Pyromaniacs on the subject. They disagree with me wholeheartedly.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

In the News

New York
New York Governor Cuomo announced a ban on "conversion therapy", the process aimed at changing a same-sex orientation or mistaken gender identity to a normal one. These have "serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder." Cuomo called the therapies "hateful" and says they run "counter to everything this state stands for." He added, "We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are."

The Olympics
The International Olympic Committee has cleared the way for men who believe they are women to compete in the Summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio. The IOC medical hearing's findings said that, "It is necessary to ensure in so far as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition." Of course, females who are transitioning to male can compete without restriction. Males transitioning to female have more stringent rules (testosterone levels below "10 nanomols [sic]" for 12 months -- achieved through hormone therapies). Of course, no other athletes will be allowed to take hormones of any kind. Only the male-to-female transgender will be allowed, nay, required to do so. Because whoever you think you are, you are.

American Pharaoh
The winner of 2015's Triple Crown, American Pharaoh, has determined that he is actually a human. In keeping with current views, he will be allowed to compete in the Summer Games. He will likely be competing in the 5000m men's race and the 3000m men's steeplechase. There is a possibility that he might also run in the 400m relay. The IOC agreed that it is not right to punish a horse for simply being who he is.

Presidential Politics
In other news, Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright campaigning for Hillary Clinton are coming under fire for comments they've made. Both are suggesting that real women only vote for Hillary. Albright stated, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other!" While Scripture makes no claim in that regard, questions are being asked whether God should honor the request in her case since she is not helping Carly Fiorina.

This Just In
In a sweetly ironical move, while Bernie Sanders took 60% of the vote in New Hampshire to Hillary's 37%, the Democratic National Committee has awarded 15 delegates to Hillary and 13 to Sanders. I'm sure that Sander's "delegate inequality" perspective will make him admit that this is a good thing, because merely working hard and earning stuff should not be the measure of what you get. Socialism in the Democratic National Committee is alive and well, and its candidates ought to be pleased with it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Who to Offend?

In life it will inevitably come down to the question at times of who to offend? That is, regardless of which stance you take, someone will be offended. Sometimes to Christians it appears that the question asked among the public is not "What is right?", but "Who is it safest to offend?" I mean, given a choice between insulting a Christian and insulting an angry gay rights crowd, I think they'd pick the Christian every time. Given the choice of offending a Christian or offending a Muslim, most people will feel safer doing the former rather than the latter. Because Christians aren't supposed to retaliate, you know?

Now, of course, I'd like to think that this line of consideration is not what is going on. I'd like to think that they're just sincerely wrong in what they conclude is right. You know, blinded by the god of this world and all. But, as it turns out, if it was true that the question is the safest answer rather than the right answer, it would be biblical. That is, it would have biblical precedence.
And when He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?" Jesus answered them, "I also will ask you one question, and if you tell Me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?" And they discussed it among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'From man,' we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." (Matt 21:23-27)
In this exchange between Jesus and the chief priests, Jesus promises to answer their question about His authority if they will answer His. His question was about the origin of John's baptism. Note, in their deliberations (I picture a little secret huddle going on where they discuss possible responses out of His hearing.), not once did they consider an answer to the question. What they considered was what answer would provide them the best outcome. That is, there was no truth in mind here, just response.

Now, despite what my children seemed to think when they were growing up, I'm no mind-reader. I have no way of knowing the motivation of people who choose to side with the gay rights crowd over, say, a Christian business owner who refuses to support a message he or she cannot, in good conscience, support. Still, given the example of the chief priests and elders who questioned Jesus, I do think that there is the possibility that the question in the minds of many is not "Which is right?", but "What will provide me the best outcome?" And it is likely a common belief that attacking a Christian is a pretty safe thing to do.

For now, of course. Because they don't answer to us now and they won't be answering to us in the end.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Education Marches On

In the early days of American education the classroom included teaching information -- reading, writing, arithmetic, that kind of thing -- but it also included values. Children were taught values like patriotism, kindness, and even faith. In those days there was prayer in schools right alongside the pledge of allegiance. Bibles were used to teach reading and, if not Bibles, the famed McGuffey's Readers. Sold between 1836 and 1960, these first-through-sixth-grade primers included such subjects as reading, writing, grammar, and arithmetic, all thoroughly soaked in William McGuffey's own deeply-held Christian beliefs.

But America woke up in the '60's. "Hey, that's religion. We won't have anything smacking of religion on our public schools!" So education shifted. They decided to not teach values. "Leave that to parents. We'll just teach them information." And it sounded reasonable. You know, "separation of church and state" and all that. Except that the removal of values in school was teaching a value on its own -- that values have little use. And, as it turned out, too many parents were not holding up their end of the bargain. Some were too lazy. Some were too busy. The advent of the two-income family was the end of much "family time". Besides, the "new morality" was becoming "If it feels good, do it." Teach that to kids and see how it goes over in an institution like public education that very few kids actually feel good about.

At some point, the American educational system woke up again. "You know," they collectively concluded, "this 'no-values' education isn't working." So they tried a hybrid -- "values clarification." "Oh, no," they said, "we won't teach them values. We'll just encourage some loose thinking on the subject." Coupled with the earlier "If it feels good, do it", "values clarification" simply solidified selfishness.

Well, that would never do. It spawned all sorts of meanness because, for reasons unknown, children who were innocent and basically good also appeared to find a great deal of pleasure in tormenting others. Further, when you shove kids from homes with parents who don't teach values together with kids from homes with parents who instill deep values and offer them "values clarification" as their only guidance, you end up with hate groups ... on all sides. Oh, that would never do.

So now we are going to teach values. Our grand experiments failed. Ditch teaching the values that formed this country in the first part. Let parents teach values. Clarify values, whatever these may be. No, these systems have clearly failed. We are going to have to teach values. So ... what values? Clearly it cannot be Christian values. Not even the broader "Judeo-Christian" values. No, that's too "religiony". Let's see. Oh, I know. Let's teach things like "save the earth" and "can't we all just get along?" and things like that. Why teach spelling when kids have spellcheckers? No, no, it would be much more helpful if we could teach values. Values like environmentalism, human rights, cultural diversity, what UNESCO terms "global citizenship education". What does that include? They want to teach your children "multiple levels of identity" because that stupid "binary gender" thing is out. Besides wouldn't it be better to teach a "collective identity"? Let's get away from things like "a Christian Worldview" and get a more "global worldview" because it's not possible to think critically, systematically, and creatively with any antiquated religious view. What's important is learning to think from a multicultural viewpoint embracing all cultures, all values, and all perspectives. In other words, "Yes, we need to teach values ... just not yours."

So, here's the plan. We're all going to get along. How? Well, we'll want to all get along, so we'll have to eliminate those "exclusive" kinds of things. You know, "My way or the highway" kind of thinking has to go. We want to embrace all views and values. Since opposing values make that impossible, we'll have to eliminate at least one of them. You think the Bible is true and Science may not be? Sorry, the Bible is out; Science is in. You think that Science is true and male and female DNA is not? Sorry, Science is out; "gender fluidity" is in. That whole "kill the infidel" thing has to go, clearly, but so does anything smacking of "No man comes to the Father but by Me." Proud to be you, be it American, Christian, or even human? Out with that. In with "us". Out with anything that clashes and then we can embrace everyone.

It will be good. Values for all. At least, the ones they'll teach to your kids. Never noticing, of course, that eliminating all differences eliminates all values, like eliminating the denominations of $1 and $10 so that they're the same. Yeah, that's much better.

Sorry ... probably just my Christian Worldview speaking.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Wrestle Not

It seems to be a common idea these days. We ought to avoid conflict. The mentality of earlier America, for instance, when "Live free or die" was an actual motto and people thought that fighting for freedom was noble is no longer "in". We prefer now a "kinder, gentler" perspective. Do not take up arms. Do not go to war. There isn't anything worth fighting about, at least not seriously. Well, at least not Christians. Christians are not supposed to fight. You know, like the Bible says: "Wrestle not."

Except that's not what it says. Here's what it actually says.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:10-12)
Well, now, that's not quite the same thing, is it?

Of course, no one has ever told me, "The Bible says to wrestle not", but they have told me that we're not supposed to fight. And by "fight" they don't mean "put up your dukes". They mean that we're supposed to not dispute over doctrine, not disagree over what God says, not defend the faith, not take a stand against evil. The Bible, on the other hand, argues that we are in the fight of our lives, not against people, but against "the rulers of the darkness of this world." We might say that there is a conspiracy of evil going on and they'll tell us, "You're just being paranoid", but Scripture says it's true ... and it's not the evil people. It's "the rulers of the darkness of this world." "Things aren't getting worse," they tell me, yet God's Word warns of "spiritual wickedness in high places." They are "saying, 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace."

So am I trying to be confrontational? Yes, I am. Am I determined to be armed? Yes, I am. Will I "wrestle not"? No, that's not an option. There is a conspiracy of evil in which many of the people who complain when I use that kind of language are only unwitting pawns. Too many Christians have forgotten that we're in a real fight. "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm." (Eph 6:13) Them's fightin' words.

Update
What I wrote here was primarily with spiritual warfare in view, with defending the faith and standing firm in the Lord and taking on the full armor of God and such. What took place in the comments below was more along the lines of pacifism versus the alternative. Without looking, I accidentally came across this article written by Dr. Daniel Heimbach, Senior Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (and a second cousin of mine). He wrote this article -- Why I am Not a Pacifist. Worth reading.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

More than Conquerors

Let's be honest. We complain ... a lot. We Americans complain about our government and our politics and our divisions between religions and morals, our economy, and on and on. We complain about the haves and the have nots and how much we don't have. We Christians complain, too. We complain about the ill treatment we are receiving from our government and our society. We complain about the political arena from a Christian perspective. We complain about persecution or we complain that some are complaining about persecution that is not persecution. If we aren't complaining, we're worrying. "Okay, so maybe it's not persecution, but it sure feels like it might be and looks like it might become persecution. I mean, things look bad for the home team." We worry about our livelihood and our families and our churches and, of all things, our rights. We even worry about our "stuff", to our shame. Worse, it's not without reason. I mean, things do look dark in places. How is America going to pull out of the messes it has built for itself? We have runaway national debt, a hostile-to-our-values education system, a climbing immorality rate (a figure that, strangely enough, never seems to show up in FBI statistics), and more. Where's the hope? So we complain and we worry.

May I suggest, dear Christian reader, that we are mistaken in our complaints and worries? Oh, no, I'm not saying there is no truth to them. Not my point. I'm saying that the answers exist and the outcome is fixed. We're complaining in the dark and worrying for nothing, not because there is no reason, but because we already know the results. What is that?
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Rom 8:31-37)
Nothing to fear, folks. In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. "Don't worry," God says, "I've got this."

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Microaggression

You may not have heard of it. It's primarily a university term. You know, only the "well-educated". Most of us have never heard of it. You might want to pay attention.

Coined back in 1970, the word is used to describe terms or actions that refer to unintended or hidden discrimination. In today's world, this might include things like asking an Asian, "Where are you from?", asking someone from another culture, "What are you?", or asking a Japanese person if they can read Japanese. It is considered microaggression if you tell someone who just sneezed, "God bless you." It might be sexist, racist, homophobic, or religious, to name a few. According to Time, it is the "New Racism" on campus. In that story they included an example of someone emailing a video of President Obama kicking open a door as a joke. (I don't get that in any sense.) In fact, "I don't see race" is classified as microaggression. Because, frankly, there's not much that doesn't seem to qualify. Of course, it is, almost by definition, only white people that do it and only Christians that do it and primarily males that do it because racism is a whites-only sin and sexism is a males-only condition and the offense of religion is limited, apparently, only to Christians.

So, if you don't want to get in trouble in this world with your insensitive, racist/sexist/religious/homophobic comments, you'd better just keep quiet. Remember, this is "microaggression", so you'd just better keep quiet all the time because you never know when an innocent "God bless America" is going to upset someone.

Which makes me wonder if this isn't the intent of the concept -- keeping you and me quiet.

Friday, February 05, 2016

If I Perish, I Perish

The plot was on (Esther 3-4). A hateful man in the king's employ was out to destroy the Jews. He warned the king that they were a danger and got the king to agree to let him wipe them all out. A servant -- a slave, a captive -- heard what was happening and went to his niece who was a beloved member of the king's harem. He told her of the danger that she and they were in and asked her to beg for a reprieve from the king. "But," she said, "if I go into the king unbidden, he may kill me." "Do you think you're immune from this threat?" he asked her. So she agreed. "If I perish, I perish." (Est 4:16)

What does that take? What does it take to do the right thing at the cost of your life? Not just physical life, which is threat enough, but all of life. What does it take to obey the law -- say, for instance, the speed limit -- at the risk of the ire of drivers all around you cursing you? What does it take to stand on the Word of God even when members of your own church will throw you to the wolves for it? What does it take to stand up and say, "Marriage is the union of a man and a woman" at the cost of social execution, of being labeled a hater and a homophobe? What does it take to pack up and head to some Muslim country that arrests, imprisons, and even executes Christians? What does it take to count it all joy when encountering various trials (James 1:2-4), to consider suffering for Christ as a gift rather than an evil (Phil 1:29), to boast in weakness (2 Cor 12:9), to see pain, suffering, even death as an opportunity rather than an impossible hardship? Where do you have to be in your relationship with Christ to say, "If I perish, I perish"? To say, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21)? What does it take for us to do the right thing at the risk of house and home, job and family, social, economic, and other possible deaths?

I'm not sure we American Christians know experientially the answer to that question. I suspect we might find out. I do believe that we ought to know, given the glut of Scripture that says so (Matt 5:10; Rom 5:3-5; Rom 8:18; John 16:33; 2 Tim 3:12; Luke 14:27; Heb 12:11; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Psa 119:71; Luke 9:23-25; Col 1:24; Phil 3:8-11; Rom 8:35-39; Heb 11:35-40 -- just a few examples). I think, however, that it is being faced with the choice that will teach us the answer.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

How Did That Happen?

So, it appears that there is evidence that a large portion of our country (the Democrats) are headed openly toward what we long suspected -- socialism. In the Iowa caucus, the Democrats were about even choosing between the socialist and the criminal. That a self-identified "I want to take the money from the rich -- everyone, actually -- and redistribute it, outspend all other presidents with money we don't have, and call it good" socialist democrat could show so well in a vote in America's heartland speaks volumes about America's heart.

But what happened with the Republicans? Trump, to my great consternation, was leading all along, yet, when it came down to a vote, Cruz was ahead of Trump and Rubio was close behind. Is it possible that Republicans are not entirely brain-dead despite the claims of the Democrats to the contrary? How did that happen?

It's okay. Some trust in democracies and some trust in government and some even trust in the will of the people. I won't put my trust in "Egypt for chariots and for horsemen" (Isa 36:9). Trusting in the world systems to make this a better place isn't very wise in my mind. "But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, 'You are My God.'" (Psa 31:14)

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Bible Speaks About Us

What does God's Word teach us about human beings?

It starts out really, really good. "The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." (Gen 2:7) Better yet, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:27) Oh, and "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen 1:31)

It is, in fact, this "image of God" concept that continues today. It is the reason that God instituted the death penalty for murder (Gen 9:6) And it is with this confidence that we believe "You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them." (Psa 139:13-16)

But something went horribly wrong. "Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Rom 5:12) Thus, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23) And "the wages of sin is death." (Rom 6:23) Not good. In fact, worse. This sin condition means that natural Man is dead in trespasses and sins, walking "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." (Eph 2:1-2) "The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Cor 2:14) That's a pretty heavy "cannot". Not "might not" or "will not" -- "cannot". In fact, "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so." (Rom 8:7) Again, "is not able". The Bible tells us that human beings in their natural condition are blinded by the god of this world "so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor 4:4) Instead of being good and wise, we are naturally sinful and suffer from a heart that "is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick.) (Jer 17:9) On our own, "the intent of Man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen 8:21)

We had a good start, made by God's hand in God's image called "very good". We are still made by God in His image, even if we have managed to tarnish and obscure it. But a tarnished reflection of God is our least problem. We stand in opposition to God, hostile, blind, incapable of understanding the things of the Spirit of God, intent only on evil from birth. We can't even see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

Now, to me, the amount of stuff I would have to overcome (beginning with coming to spiritual life) to arrive at faith in Christ without miraculous intervention is pretty amazing. Nonetheless, the fact that a few are saved becomes astounding. And the news that Christ died for us and offers to cleanse us from all unrighteousness is beyond comprehension. Good News indeed.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Problem of Proof

That's something solid, determined, clear. Proof. It isn't an argument; it is ... proof. It's not evidence; it is evidence and argument that convinces.

And therein lies the problem. The dictionary defines the word as "the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact". That sounds pretty settled. Except it does not offer a standard of "compels acceptance by the mind." Consider the current debate between rapper B.o.B. and Neil deGrasse Tyson. B.o.B. insists that the earth is flat. Look at any picture with a horizon. It is flat. Proof! Now, you can cite evidence, say, of photographs from space or even aircraft that have flown around the world. You can challenge him to feel free to fly out to the edge and see what he finds. But it doesn't matter. He has proof.

Oddly enough, this proof ("the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind") does not convince Tyson ... or any other educated, thinking person. Conversely, no amount of proof ("the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind") that the Earth is round is convincing B.o.B. So ... where's your proof?

This is a silly argument, to be sure, but the problem of proof is not. You might be asked more seriously to "prove that marriage is the union of a man and a woman" or to "prove that Jesus died for our sins" or to "prove that Christianity is true." Kant wrote the famous Critique of Pure Reason, arguing that God's existence cannot be proven by reason. He went on to argue that there must be a God if morality is to make any sense. The problem of proof.

You see, just as there is none so blind as those who will not see, there is no proof for those will not be convinced. It would seem like evidence and reason should be suitable means of proof, but you know that's not the case. It is entirely possible, for instance, to blind someone to good arguments and evidence by making the truth feel bad. For instance, the Bible clearly makes the case that homosexual behavior is sin, but large and growing numbers of people reject that not because the case is not in there, but because they feel bad about it. How many people have you heard of that changed their position on that fact when they were faced with a family member who announced they were "gay"? That's not evidence or argument, but it compelled acceptance by the mind.

There are a lot of factors that go into what we believe. Family, upbringing, environment, friends, life circumstances, teachers, pastors, the media ... on and on and on. We like to believe that what we believe is "proven" and those who disagree have failed to meet the standard of "proof". But Scripture warns of "foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not." (Jer 5:21) Absence of agreement with something is not lack of evidence or reason. It is simply the mind's unwillingness, for whatever reason, to accept the position. So when you hear, "You failed to prove your position", it feels deadly. Take heart. "Proof" is relative.