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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Crush of Culture

We were in a group looking at Leviticus (of all places). We were looking at the sacrifices made. Lots of sacrifices. Daily. Very bloody. A whole lot of work. And one of the women in the group asked, "Why does it say that the men did it? Why not the women?"

Fifty years ago no one would of have likely asked. No one would have likely thought about it. Fifty years ago respectable young men were taught to protect women, to care for women, to respect them and be kind to them. Send them out to slaughter and cut up a cow? Not likely. But we've come a long way. In 1967 nearly half of all mothers were stay-at-home moms. In 2012 the Pew Research Center reported that number was down to 29% after a low of 23% in 1999. Even those in the church are pretty sure, even if they don't say it, that women in the Bible had a pretty poor time of it. Fifty years ago female pastors were frowned upon. Only 30% of households had both parents working full time. In 2000 that number was above 50%. Let's face it; you've come a long way, baby. No longer do you expect to be cared for, pampered, looked after. That's sexist. Submit to your husband? No way! Not allow women to be pastors? What kind of backwards nonsense is that? Even deep in the church we find that the decades of cultural feminism has invaded our thinking until we're pretty sure that when God's Word says something contrary, God is wrong.

Let's talk about child-rearing. The Bible is not vague about the use of corporal punishment. When Solomon (repeatedly) refers to the use of the "rod", he's certainly talking about corporal punishment. You will find the argument that "the rod of discipline" refers to a measuring tool. "They used it to verify the length of things." So "the rod of discipline" was intended just to provide guidance, create boundaries, and track progress. This is all well and good, except that it doesn't fit either the historical understanding of the concept or the texts or contexts (Prov 10:13; Prov 13:24; Prov 22:15; Prov 23:13-14; Prov 26:3; Isa 30:31; Lam 3:1; etc.) (cp Heb 12:3-11). Jewish rabbis always understood the "rod" in these texts to be corporal punishment and Solomon's admonitions to be a warning against abusing one's children by neglecting sufficient discipline. The Church, as well, has historically understood the Bible to teach that corporal punishment, applied carefully and with love, was the right thing to do. No longer! Our culture has decided that God was wrong. More "Christianized" versions still have to argue that the Holy Spirit failed for 4,000 years to get this across and they (meaning modern science) have finally figured out the truth. And, either by twisting the sense of the texts or overriding them with "science" and "data" and "irrefutable proofs" that all of Judaism and Christianity has failed1, they've managed to convince Christian parents that the Jews, the Church, and the Scriptures were all mistaken on this point. Essentially, the culture has fixed another biblical error.

Those are just two examples. Over and over the culture has sought to invade the Church. It is not uncommon to hear people say, "The Church has to change" and mean that biblical beliefs must change. Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote a book about Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told her audience "religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed." In the wake of the LGBT sexual revolution, modern Christianity is told that the Church must change or die. Individuals -- divorced, gay, pro-abortion folk, whatever their particular axe to grind is -- insist that the Church must alter its theology to embrace their sore spot. We're not talking about adapting to technology or adjusting worship styles. We're not talking about correct correction, like embracing sin that should be rejected or being judgmental toward fellow believers. We're talking about doctrine, biblical beliefs, historical orthodoxy. Despite the clear biblical instructions and explanations we are given, modern society and modern Christians actually think that the culture has the right and capacity to change what God has said all along is right or wrong. And we, so often, fail to see that in ourselves. Why is that?
1 Something that surprises me (perhaps it shouldn't) is that the loudest voices in opposition to a biblical perspective of corporal punishment applied in love are often the same voices that oppose restricting the murder of babies in the womb. That seems totally contradictory.

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