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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Halloween Debate

Note: I wrote this originally back in 2006. I thought I'd bring it back for the occasion (Halloween) for the enjoyment (yeah, right) of those who never saw it way back then.

I guess it's that time again. You know, the annual debate about whether or not Christians should be involved with Halloween. Many churches offer alternatives to "trick or treat" and are careful not to call it anything "Halloweeny". You've seen them. "Harvest Festival" or the like. In most cases, wearing costumes is fine, but not anything "demonic" or "pagan". Some insist on biblical characters. (Go ahead ... find an "Abraham" costume at your local WalMart.) Individuals take it farther. No decorations. At least no "demonic" things, like ghosts, skeletons, spiders, vampires, or some such. And then there are the origins of Halloween to consider. Lighted, carved pumpkins were put out to scare away evil spirits, so they're definitely wrong for Christians to use. Or is that accurate?

Halloween itself has its origins in Celtic fire festivals and druid religions. It was originally Samhain, the beginning of "the dark time" in ancient days. It was considered an "ambiguous" time for spirits who could, at this time, go between the world of the dead and the world of the living. The Roman Catholic Church couldn't get its people to stop celebrating it, so they modified it. Instead of a celebration of darkness, they called it "All Saints Day", a celebration of the saints who had gone before. So the day before was "All Saints Day Eve" or, more commonly, "All Hallows Eve", it was shortened to "Hallow E'en" and then to today's "Halloween". In America, the event wasn't observed before the late 1800's when Irish farmers immigrated to the U.S. Before that, the influence of Puritan tradition prevented its observation. (The Puritans didn't allow the celebration of Christmas, either.) So Americans really didn't get into Halloween until the 20th century.

The practice of "trick or treating" came from a middle ages practice in which poor people would go door to door and receive food in return for prayers for the dead on All Saints Day. The practice of wearing costumes didn't seem to become a practice until the 1930's in America. And the idea of "trick" -- the threat that "if you don't give me a treat, I'll do something bad" -- didn't seem to really occur anywhere prior to America's version of it, and not until the 1950's. In other countries, children would be required to do a trick such as sing a song, do a card trick, tell a joke, and other such things to receive their treat.

Here it is, thousands of years past anything that resembles the origins of so many of the ideas that are incorporated into today's Halloween. And I suppose it's a product of my poor upbringing, but I just don't get the reason for the debate. When I was growing up, we would wear costumes and go house to house and say, "Trick or treat", but it never occurred to us that "trick" indicated a prank. It was just what we said. Some of the "bad kids" would TP a house or throw eggs, but those were the fringes, not the mainstream. The costumes I remember most were certainly evil, I suppose. One year my brother and I built a robot costume out of boxes. Surely that's demonic. And my most memorable (because it was my most embarrassing) was the year I went as a sack of potatoes. Truly evil, I'm sure. I was never informed that Satan was most powerful on this particular evening. I was never taught that real witchcraft and evil spirits were the focus of this event. My poor parents seemed to think that witches were ultimately fictional and God ruled the universe, and they passed that uninformed idea on to me.

Should Christians allow their children to dress up as princesses and Spiderman and visit the neighborhood collecting candy and treats? My abysmal education would say, "Why not?", but you need to "vote your conscience". I'm not here to pass judgment on the servant of another. Whatever is not of faith for you is sin. As for me, the mere suggestion that Satan actually rules at some point in time is too terrifying (and too ridiculous) to contemplate. I have to believe in a Sovereign God or life for me would be intolerable. Besides, I kind of like the idea that God can take something that supposedly belongs to Satan (like Samhain) and redeem it for something good.


Side note: For extra points, see if you can come up with biblical principles that might weigh in on the question, because "my opinion" is really of no consequence, but God's Word certainly is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Why I'm Not Getting Into Heaven

I can't tell you how many times I've heard Christians say, "God accepts you just as you are." I understand the sentiment, but the statement is just not factual.

In several places Scripture speaks to the problem of those who will not make it to heaven. One of the obvious (because it comes up a lot) is
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
I'm not focusing (this time) on the "practice homosexuality" phrase. I'm focusing on the "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" phrase. Homosexual behavior is only one of a list, all of which point to "the unrighteous." The unrighteous, Scripture is abundantly clear, don't go to heaven.

Which brings me to ... me. I am a sinner. I sin. I have sinned all my life. A little here; a lot there. Truly egregious things over in that corner. The song says, "Just as I am," so I can come to Christ as a sinner, but I don't get accepted as a sinner. What is required to gain God's acceptance? I have to be not a sinner. I have to be other than I am "just as I am."

God does not accept me as I am. Instead, "For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). The only way I get acceptance from God is to not be "me." I need to be something new (John 3:3), a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). I need to be washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (1 Cor 6:11). Because if it's just me, I'm not getting into heaven. If the "I" in view is that sinner, I'm not going to make it.
Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! (2 Cor 9:15)

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Church Service

We all know what church is supposed to be. You go in. You get fed. (If you're a Baptist, you might even get literally fed. )You go home. And, of course, you will repeat that sequence if the service was good. Like any good restaurant.

Of course, others of you are more mature. "It's not a restaurant; it's a hospital." So you go in and you can find help there. Good stuff. But if the service isn't helpful, you go somewhere else.

Service -- not just the church service, but the service you receive at church -- appears to be key. So I have to wonder. Did you not read the part in the Bible where Paul talks about your "reasonable service" (Rom 12:1)?

I don't know where it happened. If you read about the early church, it isn't described this way. Those people weren't part of God's gathered people to be served; they were serving. They met daily, shared all things in common, met needs, ministered to each other, all that kind of thing. If you read Paul's explanation about church, it isn't described this way. Church is "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:12). We do that. We're to "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13), which is not a passive "you've been served" kind of thing. Church is work, serving in the body of Christ for the benefit of those around us. Jesus didn't say, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if those in your church love you." No, it is by our love for one another (John 13:35).

We seem to have imported the world's consumer economy concept into Christ's church. We look for what we can get, preferably at the lowest cost to us. And that's not church. Not Christ's church.

Oh, there is supposed to be service in church. Just not the service that comes to us; it's supposed to be the service we give. It is the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, the giving of gifts, the sharing of talents, the love each of us gives to our fellow believers. We are the Body. We don't expect the church to serve us; we expect to serve the church. If there is feeding to be done in church, we ought to be giving it. If the church is a hospital, we're to be the staff, the workers, the ones doing the service. We don't get to show up like baby birds with empty gullets and evaluate the response. We're supposed to do the work. Yes, we go to worship. Yes, we go to get fed. Yes, we go to be healed. But more important and even valuable than all of that is what we contribute, how much we contribute to the work of God's people. You know, it's more blessed to give than to receive.

It happens to some degree. They say that 20% of those who go to church do 80% of the work. It's happening to a point; just not enough. The question is not "Are they doing it right?" It's not "Are they serving properly, feeding well, helping sufficiently?" The question is "What am I doing?" Are you there to serve or to be served? Or have you given up on going at all because their service wasn't good enough?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

As Simple as That

Sometimes the words we use are deceptive. I mean the very words. Take, for instance, the word "obfuscation". To obfuscate is to cover or confuse, to render obscure or unclear. Yet, to use the word "obfuscate" would be to confuse people. Take the concept of the Perspecuity of Scripture. It simply means that those things in Scripture necessary for salvation and faith can be understood without advanced classes or special education. "Perspecuity" refers to that which is clearly expressed and easily understood ... even though the word "perspecuity" is neither.

Consider, then, the theological principle of the Simplicity of God. "Now, wait a minute," you will surely (even hopefully) object, "if there is anything God is not it is simple." And thus the confusion about the word, "simple." The principle is not that God is simple as in easy to grasp or basic in design or any such thing. The idea is that God is God. God is not made up of various parts, properties, attributes, or divisions. He is God. He is not a compound being; He is One. There is no distinction between God and His attributes. There is no contradiction or competition in God's attributes. He is fully God in Himself, in all His attributes.

Biblically, the principle comes from a couple of Old Testament references as well as the natural conclusions from those references. One is God's clear statement, "The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut 6:4; Mark 12:29). Unity. Singular. Not one of many; one. Not one with multiple components; one. The second key reference is in Exodus. God told Moses, "I AM WHO I AM" (Exo 3:14). God is self-existent, complete. Contained in that is His entire Being, the One in whom all things exist (Col 1:17). He is the One who fills all in all (Eph 1:23).

That is the Simplicity of God. He's not a complex being; He is One. Now, to be fair, that whole idea is not simple to grasp, and we're back to the confusion with the word, "simple." But He is certainly different than we are in this. We are composed of multiple parts. There is what we do and there is what we are. We are told, for instance, to "love the sinner but hate the sin" because the two are distinct. But God is simple; He is what He does and He does what He is. We have thoughts and ideas that are not us; they're our thoughts and ideas. God is what He thinks and thinks what He is. In theological terms, we have existence and we have essence; God does not. His existence and His essence are the same.

Without knowing it, this idea comes up a lot in discussions -- usually incorrectly. "Sure, God is a just God," they will tell us, "but He is also a merciful and loving God." That much is true, but the implication (or perhaps even the explicit conclusion) is that God mitigates His justice with His love and mercy. "Sure, He's a just God, but He sets aside His justice to give forgiveness." It is a mistake to think that one of God's attributes is cancelled or altered by another of God's attributes because God is One.

This is the answer to the famous "Euthyphro dilemma": Is something good because God wills it or does God will it because it is good? Since good resides in God, it is clearly the former. Good does not exist apart from God, nor is God divisible from good that is His character. "But," the dilemma objects, "that means that God could have just as easily willed the opposite and we'd have to call it 'good'." Only if you misunderstand the Simplicity of God. It is good because it is God's character and God cannot will "not" His character. We know that God is love (1 John 4:8). He doesn't just possess love. Love is defined by God and who He is. In the same way, God is good and good is defined by God and who He is.

The Simplicity of God is important. It prevents us from raising our favorite attributes of God -- say, love or mercy or grace -- above our less favorites, like His wrath and justice. He is perfect in love and perfect in justice, perfect in grace and perfect in holiness. It also keeps us in mind of the unavoidable fact that He is not like us. We are multifaceted people with body and soul and spirit, with attributes and behaviors, with all sorts of aspects. God is His attributes and behaviors. And the Simplicity of God is the only means by which God can maintain perfection in all that He is. If He were not all that He is, some of what He is would change, would diminish or increase. Not God. It makes Him "solid," in a sense. He's not going to change. And it gives us the certainty that when He is just, He is loving, and when He is merciful, He is opposed to sin, and when things don't look pleasant, He is still, always, good.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

News Weakly - 10/27/18

Filed Under "I almost don't care at all"
Vogue magazine and Kendall Jenner are in big trouble, you naughty people. Vogue released some photos -- prepare yourself -- of Kendall Jenner with frizzy hair! I know! It was "cultural appropriation." "If they wanted that look," some complained, "they should have given the shoot to an African-American model." Because at no time should any white person have anything resembling some other cultural group's whatever. Of course, if a person of color wishes to straighten her hair (like the model of African descent shown with Kendall in one shot) or the like, that's certainly okay, because "cultural appropriation" as a cardinal sin only works in one racial direction. Vogue assured its audience that they were only going for "the big hair of the '60s and the early '70s, that puffed-out, teased-out look of those eras" that went well with the "period feel of the Brock Collection" she was posing with, but they were really sorry.

Not Funny at All
In 1976 Bruce Jenner competed in the Olympic men's decathlon event and won the gold. Great story. Then Bruce decided he wasn't a man. Fast forward to this week. Someone has produced a Halloween costume titled, "I am Cait" that is designed around Jenner's 1976 jersey. And the transgender crowd goes crazy. ("Massive backlash" the story says.) This is the kind of abuse trans people face very day. A president of a transgender support group assured us "it is not funny." (Hey, if we called it a trans-Jenner support group, would that be funny? No, I guess not.)

I agree. Not funny. Bizarre, but not funny. Because either a confused woman competed and won in the 1976 men's decathlon or a confused man is wearing women's clothing and calling himself "Cait," but both can't be true. And if a confused woman competed in the men's decathlon in 1976, I think she ought to surrender her falsely-gained gold for competing under false pretenses. Not funny at all.

Asylum Seekers at War
You've heard by now, I'm sure, that something like 7,000 people are marching on the U.S. from Honduras seeking asylum from an oppressive regime. Trump has vowed to send 2,100 mostly unarmed troops to stem what appears to be a literal human tide. They forcibly (by mass, not arms) breached Mexico's southern border last week and have continued to gather more "asylum seekers" headed north to asylum in America. One side urges a military halt to their advance; the other urges a more open-border approach. "Let them come! They're only seeking asylum!"

Here's what I'm wondering. Assuming Honduras is the problem, they could go to, say, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico ... there are lots of places to go that are not Honduras. (Mexico offered to let them stay there.) There are those even in the Christian community that claim we are obligated to open our doors to asylum seekers as a Christian duty. When did "Christian duty" become "forcing our government to take in questionable 'asylum seekers' traveling an insane distance for less-than-clear reasons"? And if it is the Christian's duty to coerce the government to render aid wherever it is required, I'm sure there is a clear list of places we can do that ... like Venezuela or Myanmar or all sorts of other places with nasty governments. Hey, how about Honduras?! I would like to point out that Christian duty has never been "force others to do what you think is right." I'm pretty sure that's the Left's job.

What Are They Feeding Those Kids in Florida?
The story was ugly. Two middle school students in Florida are facing charges after their plot was discovered. They planned to kill several students, cut them up, and eat them. Wait, it gets worse. The police say two girls, ages 11 and 12, came up with the plan. Wait, it gets worse. They got the idea after watching scary movies. Wait, it gets worse. They planned to wait in the bathroom at school so they could kill "at least 15" smaller kids. Wait, it gets worse. They figured out how to do it by doing online research. Wait, it gets worse. "They told us they were Satan worshipers." The police say they found the girls waiting in the bathroom, armed, to start their plan. The youngest brought a glass goblet with which to savor her victim's blood.

One of the most disturbing things to me in the story (and, mind you, there wasn't much that wasn't disturbing) was the warning at the top of the story. "WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS DETAILS THAT SOME MAY CONSIDER DISTURBING." That there are some who may not find this disturbing is really troubling. I also wonder why an 11-year-old and 12-year-old were watching movies of that type and are avowed Satanists, but I suppose thinking that parents ought to be involved in their children's choices is an archaic idea. Tell me again about the innate goodness of human beings and the innocent children.

We Say Nay to Parody ... or Not
Maybe you're not familiar with The Simpsons, a cartoon centering around -- you guessed it -- the Simpsons. Among the characters there is the dad, Homer, a complete buffoon, and Bart, the son, Ned Flanders, a right-wing nut Christian, and Apu, the owner of the local Kwik-E-Mart and a spoof on Indians in America (not Native Americans). Apu, lately, has drawn fire because he's Indian and they're making fun. So they're dropping Apu to avoid the controversy. They would prefer to make a "fresh, funny and realistic portrayal of Indians in America." Which, of course, is the task of every cartoon -- fresh, funny, and realistic. Oh, wait. Hang on. Well, that's okay. They're aiming for "realistic" and not caricature or parody, so they're also eliminating Bart, Homer, Ned, Marge, and, well, everyone else because the cartoon is a parody and that just won't do. Oh, wait ... what? Now they're telling me that it's absolutely okay to satirize white males, white people in general, Christians, and just about anyone else. Just not people of color. That won't do. My mistake. I'm not woke yet.

Good News at Home
This is really good news. "Democrats said they would cease calling for violent attacks on conservatives 'at least until this whole mail bomb thing is out of the news cycle.'" We'll see if Hillary gets the memo.

Must be true; I saw it on the Internet.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Unrealistic Expectations

I write largely from a Christian worldview using the Bible as my guide and primary source material. That shouldn't be surprising; I'm a Christian. So I cheerfully lay down biblical principles as "right" and warn against those principles and perspectives that disagree; I'm a Christian. I urge others to do the same -- to pursue God and His Word, to be conformed to His image.

Here's the shocker ... not everyone agrees.

Now, of course, that's no actual shock. I'm in a minority -- an extreme minority. I do believe that God's way is the best. By "best" I mean the best for me and the best for you, the way to the happiest, most fulfilling, most purposeful life. It's good for you. All that notwithstanding, people are not going to go along with me.

People will sin. People will disregard Scripture or, worse, twist it to their own purposes. They will indulge with glee in what God's Word classifies as evil, even abominable. I get that. In fact, they can't avoid it. The Bible says they have deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9), blinded eyes (2 Cor 4:4), inclined only to evil (Gen 6:5) and hostile to God (Rom 8:7). So when we cry, "Look, look, those people are sinning!" I feel like answering, "Duh!" I don't exactly know how to tell you this, but sinning is what sinners do.

We often approach our world with unrealistic expectations. We think for reasons unknown that they should have Christian values with Christian morals and a Christian worldview. They don't. Why would we think they should? So we alternately suffer from righteous indignation or foolish hopelessness that sinners are sinning. It's what they do.

We are Christians. We are followers of Christ. We ought to be imitating Him. We should be in the process of being conformed to His image. We should have faith and virtue and knowledge and self-control and steadfastness and godliness and brotherly affection and love in ever-increasing amounts (2 Peter 1:5-8). We should be displaying less and less of the fruits of the flesh and more and more of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:16-23). That what Christians ought to be doing. But expecting that of the spiritually dead (Eph 2:1) is just foolishness. We should look to our own transformation (Rom 12:2) and that of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal 6:1-2). Don't hurt yourself with unrealistic expectations that sinners shouldn't be sinning. It's what they do.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Post-Postmodern World

Modernism is a philosophical position that argues that all of life's questions can be answered by Science and Reason. It started in the late 19th century at the advent of the modern Industrial Age with the belief that we no longer needed no stinkin' religion to explain our world. We've got Science now and with a bit more knowledge, some careful reasoning, and some new technology we could solve any problem. Of course, this brave beginning was followed by World War I and World War II which featured new and improved technology for killing the masses. It took Science and Reason to produce mustard gas and modern warfare and the atomic bomb. So modernism started its decline.

Enter the answer: postmodernism. Postmodernism, by its name, tells you the notion. It is everything that modernism was not. Oh, it rejects religion, sure enough, but also Science and Reason as gods and supplants them with nothing more than "Me." Words mean what I think they mean. Reality is what I define it to be. Morality is whatever I decided it is. Truth is whatever I think. A complete rejection of modernism. Postmodernism, however, has died off, at least in academia. You can imagine why. To argue logically that logic is irrelevant is nonsense. To use words to explain that words mean whatever you want is hard (and foolish) work. It was unsustainable. So postmodernism is not in vogue as much as it once was.

I suppose, then, that this leaves us in the post-postmodern era. We're not entirely sure what's next (pseudo-modernism? metamodernism?) But we are surely living in the wretched remains of postmodernism. Why do I say that? Look at where we stand.

Words don't mean anything anymore. Our society is quite comfortable arguing for "tolerance" that does not include "ideas or actions with which I disagree." They mean "embracing all ideas and/or actions except for those with which I disagree." Or the exact inverse of "tolerance." Actual people use actual language to extol the virtue of being "inclusive" by excluding those who are different. And so it goes. Hardly a word these days can stand alone with a meaning on which we can agree because, after all, postmodernism did us the favor of cutting "meaning" out of our vocabulary.

Science is in serious disarray. Lots of people see it as "God" of some sort, but only as far as they will allow it. You think that X and Y chromosomes mean something when it comes to gender? You're a kook. Everyone knows we are the gender we feel like we are. The world has never known anything but "binary gender" -- only two -- but we know much, much better today. So we will actually medicate and mutilate people in order to help them to be more like they feel they really are (and you, dear reader, will need to pay for it) and only haters say otherwise. In enlightened circles it is actually immoral to refer to a child as a "boy" or a "girl" until they've determined what they actually are. God Science is dead; long live God ME!

Reason is useless. For all time human beings have been able to think carefully, logically, step by step to the wrong conclusion. Now we encourage it. Now we embrace it. "Socialism has never, ever worked for any nation ... so let's do that." "Just because marriage has always meant the union of a man and a woman is no reason to think that it is so." "There is no evidence for your beliefs and we'll reject any evidence you offer to the contrary." "We want to vote on what God says is true and ensure He (sorry, "He" is no longer acceptable) conforms to our views." Is there any wonder we're floundering about here politically, academically, in religion and science and culture and everything else? There is no place to stand.

Welcome to the next bad thing. No, not the next big thing. Cultural insanity. Humans are, by definition, sinners suffering from deceitful hearts without knowing it, blinded by the god of this world, without light and without reason -- sin-twisted. We just keep proving that God was right and we're not. Welcome to the debris of postmodernism.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Problem Verses - Part 2

So, I've laid out the problem. We know that God in some way wills that no one perishes (2 Peter 3:9), that all should come to repentance (1 Tim 2:3-4). We know that God is Sovereign -- works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). We know that God may grant repentance (2 Tim 2:25). And we know that some perish. So how do we put together God's will that all should repent and not perish, God's Sovereignty that guarantees that God's will is always accomplished, and the fact that not all repent, that some do indeed perish?

I was trying to think of an example in life, but a biblical one occurred to me, so let's go with that. In his epistle to the church at Philippi, Paul expresses a personal dichotomy. He is of two minds. "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21). And it's a difficult problem for him. "I am hard pressed between the two" (Phil 1:23). He says, "My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account" (Phil 1:23-24). So, let's ask ourselves. What is the "will of Paul" in this instance? We don't have to guess. His "desire" is to depart. So, why doesn't he? Because the other option is "more necessary." We see, then, that Paul has a will -- a desire -- that is not being fulfilled and it is by his own choice -- his own will -- because a higher desire precedes it in importance.

Does this occur in God? Again, we don't have to guess. We know (because we've already seen it) that God desires all to be saved. But we also know that it is God's will (thelō) to "show His wrath and to make known His power" on "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" (Rom 9:22). Using Paul's language in the previous example, God is saying, "My desire is that all should come to repentance and that none should perish, for that is better, but to demonstrate my power and wrath against vessels of wrath prepared for destruction is more necessary." Could God make us all into "vessels of mercy" (Rom 9:23)? Yes! He has that capability. But His aim is to "make known the riches of His glory" which would be incomplete without demonstrating His power and wrath against sinners. So as a more necessary choice, God is opting to set aside one desire -- one will -- in favor of a higher, better, "more necessary" one.

We do this all the time. A couple of simple earthly examples. No good parent wants to inflict their child with pain, but they do so willingly if it is an inoculation (for instance) that will save that child's life. Two desires; one overrides the other. Husbands want to get what they want, but they are commanded to love their wives by laying down their own lives. Two desires; one overrides the other. It's common. God does it, too. So God desires all to be saved, but God has a better, more necessary plan. His plan is to more fully demonstrate His glory to His people. Much better. So instead of using these types of texts against each other like ammunition for a personal cause, we should see what God has in mind and find in it His ultimate glory, since that's His ultimate plan.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Problem Verses - Part 1

You know this verse, or, at least, the significant part of it, I'm sure.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
We love that verse. "God is not willing for any to perish." Love it! What is God's will? "All should come to repentance." Yes! We love that!! Except ... there's a problem.

This verse comes up a lot in the "Elect" versus "Individual Free Will" debates. One side says "God chooses whom He will save" and the other throws this grenade back: "God is not willing that any should perish." There ya go. Proof. God doesn't choose. Except that Scripture says He does (e.g., 1 Peter 2:9; Eph 1:3-4; John 6:44; Eph 1:11; John 15:16; Matt 22:14; 2 Thess 2:13). Well, that's a problem. But, look, surely God chooses those whom He knows will choose Him, right? I'll tell you what; let's go with that for a moment.

Let's just leave that alone for now, because there's a much bigger problem here. Are you ready? Here it is. If God is not willing that any should perish, why do any perish? The problem, in fact, only gets worse if we factor in Paul's letter to Timothy where he says that God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:3-4). I mean, for a moment there we could have done a dodge on the 2 Peter verse by simply pointing out that the "any" that He wishes won't perish doesn't have an object, so "people" wasn't required. It could be "any of the elect" or something like it, but this one is clear -- "all people." No help at all. Apparently, then, we have a contradiction. While God "works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11), that "all things" does not include this.

We might explain it that God has tied His own hands. He won't violate our free will. Word it carefully that way, and you come to a "The Sovereign God sovereignly surrenders Sovereignty to human free will" kind of view. Maybe that works for you, but in terms of reason and logic, it's neither. It doesn't get us out of the contradiction. God cannot be both Sovereign and not.

Maybe it's in the word, "desires." You know, "God wishes that all will be saved, but God doesn't always get what He wishes." It's true; He doesn't. He wishes you wouldn't sin, but you do. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but they die (Ezek 33:11). As it turns out, the word in 1 Tim 2:4 (thelō) is the same word as in Eph 1:11 and we're back to the problem of God's will, not His wishes. Some will point out that the Greek word in 1 Tim 2:4 is not the same word used in the 2 Peter passage (boulomai). "That one," they will point out, "is more at 'will' than 'desire'." And, of course, I hope you can see that this doesn't help either. We're still left with God's will not being fulfilled.1

And this problem gets worse when we consider that Paul wrote that God grants repentance (2 Tim 2:25), so if repentance is granted by God, it would seem that humans wouldn't be standing in the way of God's wishes in this regard. And we, once again, have these two ideas standing in opposition. God wills that all come to repentance but only "may perhaps grant repentance" (2 Tim 2:25) to them ... or may perhaps not.

I've seen a lot of people talking on both sides of this question. They hold forth on their own side of the question and assure me that the other side is wrong. It seems, however, that they do so by ignoring the other side. It's a rare person who tries to put these together to come up with a comprehensive answer. They are typically satisfied with holding a contradictory notion in each hand and calling them "done." So how does it work? Is God Sovereign or not? Does He actually will that all be saved? If they are not, how is He Sovereign? (There are those who argue that all are saved. We call that particular heresy "Universalism".) If He chooses to save some and not others, in what sense does He "will/wish/desire" all to be saved? Seems like there is a problem here.
1 Greek commentators indicate that thelō is impulsive and boulomai is rational. They seem to agree here. Then they break down. One says that thelō is simple desire, but boulomai is deliberate resolve, so the latter is the more forceful term. Others say that boulomai isn't as strong as thelō because thelō means "to desire" while boulomai means "to will" and obviously "to desire" is a stronger impulse than "reasoned resolve." This side says that thelō is the choice of the spirit while boulomai is the choice of the mind, so thelō is stronger. Thank you, Greek commentators. No help there.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Biblical Social Justice

The whole "Social Justice" juggernaut has been in full combat mode for some time now, but especially in religious circles. I say "religious" because there is a large, self-identified Christian component, but I question the connection of "social justice" and "Christian". These "Social Justice Warriors" (SJW) trot out "social justice" as the primary goal and first aim of Christianity itself, and I'm simply asking, "Is that so?" What does the Bible say?

In order to understand this properly, we have to figure out what we're talking about. "Social justice" is generally defined as "a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society." Hey, we know the Bible is absolutely in favor of justice (e.g., Micah 6:8). While enforcing fair and just relations between the individual and society is not listed as a primary task of Christians, we are certainly in favor of it (Matt 25:31-46).

But ... is that what they mean when they speak of "social justice"? I don't think so. Like so many other things ("marriage," "love," "gender," etc.), the meaning of the terms we commonly used have been abducted and, while they claim they are speaking of the same thing (and, thus, you must agree with them), they aren't.

Typically, these days, what passes for "social justice" has several concerns. The most obvious is "equality," another word that suffers from redefinition to mean not "of the same value," but "the same." The "equality" they're talking about is in terms of distribution. Distribution of goods, wealth, advantages, disadvantages. "If you have it, so should we." We used to think that "equality" included "proportional to effort," for instance, so that those who put in the most effort would get more than those who put in less, but we're not there anymore. Distribution must be equal, not equitable.

They want what's best for "the common good." Surely you can see the problem here. Who gets to define "the common good?" They do. So they insert things like "socialism" and "welfare state" and "income inequality" under the heading of "common good." They offer new rights and new requirements and label them "social justice." Think of the "minimum wage" battles these days where they get to decide what "minimum wage" is without any thought of the value of the workers or the cost to the ones paying the wage or the customers who will have to make up for it. They throw in "the right to kill your baby" if you're a woman as if killing your baby is a matter of "social justice" -- as if killing a baby can be justice in any sense. And if you don't concur with their definition, you are opposed to "social justice."

Much of what passes for "social justice" today is nothing more or less than what the Bible refers to as "covetousness." "I want what you have and I should get it." Couch that in "social justice" terms and it ceases being a sin and becomes a right, a matter of "equality," an issue that all Christians ought to support.

In a Steve Taylor song against the "health and wealth" gospel, he has a line that goes like this: "I know You'll give me what I need; they say I need a shopping mall." That's what has become of the "social justice" concept today. We're in favor of compassion and caring; they say we need to give them what others have earned. Scripture says, "If any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thess 3:10). When a man asked Jesus to make his brother do what was right, Jesus said, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:13-15). Jesus declared His own primary task as seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10), not providing for equal distribution of wealth and privilege. His first message was "Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15), not "Get out there and help the needy."

Scripture encourages us to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, uphold the weak, and so on. It is not the Gospel, but it is a calling we have under the heading of "love your neighbor." We should do those things. And I don't think there is a question that a lot of us are not doing those things nearly enough. On the other hand, what passes for "social justice" today is misguided, misdirected, and even sinful in many cases, but a lot of us are buying into it because "Hey, it's 'social justice' and we're all for that, right?"
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Can I Doubt His Tender Mercy?

We sang this hymn in church recently. I've known it for a long time, but don't hear it very often at all. I mean, it's still in King James English, for pity sake! Who needs that when we have modern music? I think we do. I think we need this kind of thinking:
All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
The hymn title (if you haven't already figured it out) is All the Way My Savior Leads Me. It was written by Frances Crosby and published in 1875. Better known as Fanny Crosby, she was one of the most prolific writer of hymns, writing more than 9,000 of them in her lifetime. Her best known include Blessed Assurance, Near the Cross, To God be the Glory, and the Salvation Army favorite, Rescue the Perishing. Born in 1820, she lost her sight at 6 weeks old due to a guy pretending to be a doctor who prescribed hot mustard poultices to be applied for an eye infection. A few months later her father died.

Fanny had an unpleasant beginning to life, so it's somewhat surprising that she zealously memorized Scripture rather than spiraling into bitterness toward God. She wrote poetry and spent 23 years at the New York Institute for the Blind -- 12 as a student and 11 as a teacher. At 8 years old she wrote her first poem that began
Oh, what a happy soul I am,
although I cannot see!
And she said, "I know, whate'er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well."

When will we who are so blessed arrive at that conclusion? We complain when things are unpleasant. We question God when things don't go well for us. But we can be sure that, whatever happens, Jesus always does the right thing (Rom 8:28). That kind of confidence should sustain us through the worst storms. "What have I to ask beside?"

Saturday, October 20, 2018

News Weakly - 10/20/18

This Will Not Look Good on a Résumé
Being an Air Force veteran, I just found this story amusing/amazing. A Belgian mechanic accidentally fired the Vulcan cannon on the F-16 he was working on, sending a hail of armor-piercing rounds into another F-16 down range. That one, just fueled for a training mission, blew up, damaging the other F-16 next to it. "That $24 million isn't coming out of my check, right?" No one was seriously injured, but this will not go well for his next review.

Alienable Rights
You've heard the phrase, "inalienable rights," right? The word is actually connected to the idea of "alien," where "inalienable" means "it can't become alien to you" so to speak. Well, now there are "alienable" rights, or, perhaps, more at "alien" rights. Apparently we have a constitutional right to the end of global climate change. At least that's what the lawyer for 21 children and young adults is claiming. The suit brought by kids from 8 to 19 years old (first in 2015) argues that we (our government, not just "mankind") are responsible for the extreme weather events that traumatize and endangers them. Figuring out how the U.S. government is responsible for this given the claim by science that every world nation is to blame seems problematic, but, hey, you never know what our courts will decide. I was just unaware of the "end to global climate change" right in our constitution. Learn something new every day.

When News Stuns
I don't even know what to do with this. The report is that a biological male has won the world chamlpionship in women's cycling. Rachel McKinnon, a professor at the College of Charleston, won in the 35-39 age bracket in Los Angeles. He identifies as a she and protested being required to take testosterone suppression. He can't figure out why people are miffed, arguing that it's just haters, bigots, and transphobic people. "Focusing on performance advantage is largely irrelevant because this is a rights issue. We shouldn't be worried about trans people taking over the Olympics." Um, okay, except for the fact that men and women are different.

Another Pleasant Surprise
Last week I told you about the Christian bakers in the U.K. who were exonerated for refusing to make a cake for a wedding they did not support. Now we hear of another pleasant surprise here in America where a former Atlanta fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, had reached a $1.2 million settlement in his case brought against the city for firing him because he wrote a book that was an orthodox Christian view of sex and marriage. These surprise rulings seem to be on the increase.

On Good Authority
Well, there you have it. We can now say definitively -- from the lips of Stephen Hawking, no less -- that there is no God. So says the scientist in his last book published by his family after his death. What is his reasoning? The complexity of the universe. "If there were such a God," Hawking wrote, "I would like to ask, however did he think of anything as complicated as M-theory in eleven dimensions." Because clearly no Supreme Being could be that smart, right?

I don't know. I don't get it. It is precisely the vast intricacy and complexity of the universe that convinces me (apart from Scripture) that there is a God. Further, if no such God exists, there is no real purpose, no real morality, no real hope. But, hey, at least we can rest in the certainty that, even though there's no God, no purpose, no morality, and no hope, there is intelligent life in the universe. Hawking says so. I wonder if Stephen Hawking has changed his position after death.

Filed Under the "Duh" Heading
This comes as a shock, apparently. New reports link legalized recreational marijuana use with increased auto accidents. In the four states that have legalized it, accidents are up 6%. In 14% of those accidents involving marijuana use, they had children in the car. Surely we cannot believe that people seeking solely to get high (Note: This isn't strictly true of all alcohol use.) could possibly be less concerned about their kids or their ability to control their vehicle, could we? To which I say, "Duh!" Did they really not see that coming?

From the "Easily Offended" Crowd
Kleenex had to re-brand their "Mansize" tissues because the public was complaining that the terms, "mansize", "confidently strong", and "comfortingly soft," were endorsing gender inequality. Of course, I think of "mansize" as "large" and not as "gender specific" (let alone "gender inequality"), but, I suppose, that's because I'm not generally one of our ever-growing "easily offended" crowd. Oh, my! I hope that doesn't offend someone!

Sad State of Affairs
According to the United Nations Population Fund, 40% of all births in the United States occur outside of marriage. That's up from the approximately 10% in 1970. (Note that in Spain it is closer to 45%, in Sweden closer to 55%, and in France it is more like 60%. Stunning numbers.)

So, what can we conclude? Marriage is on the decline. But, what would you expect, since the Supreme Court ordered the decline of marriage? And Scripture considers marriage the defining image of Christ's relationship with the Church, so, of course, those hostile to God would want that. What else? Sexual morality is not what it used to be. I mean, it's never been quite biblical, but today's version is no longer quite ... moral. Just about anything goes. And God's dire warnings against sexual immorality are being tossed overboard wholesale. And, of course, as a matter of course, our rejection of marriage and males makes biblical families no longer the normal or necessarily desirable family. The biblical responsibility of husbands and fathers (mirroring the responsibility of God) is right out. And who will pay for that particular sin? The children ... and the generations that follow. None of this is good news.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Whose Side Are You On?

Judge John Roberts warned that the bitter partisan battles over Judge Kavanaugh need to cease. He said that the job of the Supreme Court was to interpret the Constituion and "obviously requires independence from the political branches." Of course, the Left media will have none of that. If the Court keeps making pro-GOP decisions, clearly it is a partisan Court and Roberts is a liar. Roberts clearly needs to "stem the torrent of 73 partisan 5-4 decisions benefiting big Republican interests."

To me, this is similar to the "too many black people in prison" argument. Clearly the fact that there are black people in prison means that the entire nation is racist. Or it could be that black people are doing crimes. Now, it could still be that there is racism in play here. I'm not denying that (as some do). Is it the suggestion of the "anti-racist" folk regarding the disproportionate number of black people in prison that a disproportionate number of innocent black people are in prison? Or is it just that a disproportionate number of white criminals are not being caught? It would be a grand injustice if the vast majority of black people in prison were innocent. But if they're guilty, then the problem isn't that they're too many in prison; it's that there aren't enough white people in prison. That's a different problem. Which is it? Do we need bigger prisons and more arrests and convictions of white criminals, or do we need to overturn the entire judicial system of "a jury of your peers" and start over ... with whatever the black community would deem "just"?

In the SCOTUS question, then, I have a similar question. The Court, numerically it seems, has been handing down a lot of "pro-GOP" decisions. Is that because the Court is pro-GOP, or is it because the standard GOP positions on these questions are in line with the Constitution? Here, let me ask this another way. If we were to grab the founding fathers of our nation -- the ones that laid down our constitution -- and brought them in today and asked them, "What did you have in mind?", would they have a predominantly Left or Right-leaning view? Would they be more in line with modern Democrats or the GOP? Because if it is clear that they were more of the view that the modern Republican party is, it would make perfect sense for an independent Court, reviewing constitutional questions, to come to more modern Republican conclusions. That wouldn't be because they were partisan; it would be because they were following the Constitution.

Well, don't worry. No one will ask these types of questions. We are no longer capable of thinking through things like this. We can only evaluate in terms of "what suits me best," "how I feel about it," and "where my group stands" than by any reasoned perspective. I'm pretty sure that all sides will respond to each other in a partisan fashion with heat and fight because, after all, reason and common sense appear to be dead in our current culture.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Did God Really Say ...?

It was the opening shot to the war that was begun way back in the Garden and still rages today. The serpent asked Eve, "Did God really say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?” (Gen 3;1) Eve's answer was ... weak. And it was all downhill from there. The next step was obvious. 1) Question God. 2) Deny God. Deny His faithfulness, His integrity, His goodness. "He's holding out on you!" (Gen 3:2-5) So I was wondering. What would have been a better answer. I mean, you know Satan will come stomping around your doorstep slyly asking, "Did God really say ...:?" and you're going to have to give a better answer than Eve did. (Note: Just as Satan's question was partially right, Her answer was partially wrong. God never said "neither shall you touch it," revealing an underlying concern that God was being overly harsh already.) So let's try out a few you might hear and see what we can do to improve on Eve's answer.

"Did God really say what is in the Bible?" Yes, He did. Paul claims that all Scripture is "God-breathed" (2 Tim 3:16-17). "Inspired" is the word a lot of versions use, but what is intended in the language is "breathed out" -- the "exhaled" Word of God. When we trust God's Word to be reliable, we aren't trusting humans or history or tradition; we're trusting God. When we do not trust God's Word to be reliable, we are not distrusting humans or tradition; we are distrusting God.

"Did God really say there is only one way to heaven?" Yes, He did. Explicitly. Jesus said, "No man comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Peter stated, "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). No other way but one.

"Did God really say we would suffer?" Yes, He did. Indeed, we were promised it, not merely warned about it. James said we should be joyful about it (James 1:2-4). Peter said that suffering was God's will (1 Peter 3:17), so don't be surprised (1 Peter 4:12). Paul said we were granted suffering for Christ (Phil 1:29). A gift! And we know without doubt that if and when it happens, it is for our good (Rom 8:28).

"Did God really say to forgive others or not expect to be forgiven myself?" Yes, indeed, He did. Jesus said, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt 6:14-15).

"Did God really say there is a Hell?" Yes, He did. Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven. He described it as "the fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:43-48; Matt 18:8), "eternal damnation" (Mark 3:29), "a place of torment" (Luke 16:28), "outer darkness" (Matt 8:12) and "everlasting punishment" (Matt 25:46). It is not fictional, trivial, or temporary. It is not a place you want to go to be with your friends, nor is it a place you can rule despite all the trite claims to the contrary.

"Did God really say that homosexual behavior was sin?" Yes, yes He did. Without doubt or question. He said those who make a practice of such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). Our concern, then, is for the eternal welfare of those who practice things like sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkenness, and, yes, homosexual behavior.

"Did God really say that women are not permitted to lead men in the church?" Yes, He did (1 Tim 2:12-14). "Did He really say that wives must submit to husbands, even husbands who aren't faithful?" Indeed He did (Eph 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1). "Okay, then God really demeans women, doesn't He?" No! He considers them "joint heirs" (1 Peter 3:7), equal in value (Gal 3:28). God holds Adam, not Eve, responsible for the first sin (1 Tim 2:13-14). Women are to be protected and cared for, not demeaned.

This can go on and on and on. Scripture is not vague. Our problem is not that what God said isn't clear. Our problem is our willingness to question God, His Word, His faithfulness, His integrity, His goodness. And when we do, we cannot be said to be loving God, no matter what name (like "Christian") we apply to ourselves.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bearing Burdens

There is an interesting apparent contradiction built into Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia (a region, not a city). The passages, in fact, occur within a few verses of each other. Paul urges them to restore a brother who is caught in a transgression. Then he says,
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)
And, of course, we ought to do that. But barely three verses later he adds in the thoughts about verse 2:
Each will have to bear his own load. (Gal 6:5)
Um, okay, uh, Paul? Which is it? Do we bear one another's burdens or do we bear our own?

Now, lots of people have entered into interesting efforts to clear up this problem. They've pointed out that the two words for "burden" (v 2) and "load" (v 5) are different, so they're talking about different things, right? The second verse comes after an explanation that we each need to test our own work. Maybe that's the "load" we each have to bear and not the same as "another's burdens." In context, in fact, this makes some sense. Paul warned, in seeking to restore the sinning brother (or sister), that we should "Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal 6:1). His words in verses 3 and 4 talk of the problem of us trying to help someone else when our own view of ourselves is too high. "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (Gal 6:3). So Paul is calling us to attention about the sin for which we are, indeed, responsible. Or, the load of sin we need to bear is our own.

I think this all misses the point. I mean, it's true, I think, but if our own sin is the load we bear and Paul was trying to urge us to bear one another's "transgression," it seems as if we're back at the original point. We're supposed to help others bear their burden of sin and we're responsible for our own load of sin. Aren't we back at that same contradiction?

Maybe. I don't think so.

Paul has written from your perspective, so to speak. His commands are to you (and me). He isn't speaking from the view of the sinning Christian; he's talking about what "you who are spiritual" (Gal 6:1) should do. And he's talking to the same ones who are going to have to bear their own load. To me, then, he's quite clear. If I read this from my perspective -- from my outlook -- I'm supposed to bear those burdens of others and I'm supposed to see myself as responsible for my own. I don't expect others to carry their own, but I do expect me to carry my own. But, you see, if the Christian next to me is seeing things this way, too, then I won't be bearing my own burden. This other believer will be reaching out to bear my burden with me. And the next will be reaching out to bear his burden with him. And so on. The positive part is I will be grateful for the help because I was expecting to bear my own load. I am not owed the help; it's a gift from an obedient brother in Christ.

I've seen too many times where "godly" husbands look in Scripture and read, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22), for instance, and then demand that their wives submit to them. Notice, however, that the command is to wives, not to husbands. There is no command that says, "Husbands, make sure your wife submits to you." It's not in there. And they miss entirely "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). The spiritual man (the one following the Spirit) will see the command to husbands long before he looks for a command to wives because that one is addressed to him. In the same way, the command to "Bear one another's burdens" is directed to me and I'm told to bear my own load. That should about cover everything. Others are helped. My load is covered. I'm good to go. Oh, and look! Someone else is doing the same and my load has twice as many people helping. Even better! But as long as I'm requiring of others that they bear my burdens, I will never be as grateful as I should be when they do because, "Hey, I got it coming!" And that's just not the way it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Getting Credit

We Christians have a dilemma. We understand that we're saved by grace -- unmerited favor -- and we have no room for boasting. No merit; no boasting. Still, we are supposed to do good and we are promised rewards for doing so. So how does that work? We are without merit, but we will receive merit.

In Judges 4 there is the famous story of Deborah and Barak (to be distinguished from a modern day Barack). Deborah was a prophetess who reminded Barak that God had told him to take an army and God would eliminate the enemy general for them. Barak balked. "If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go" (Judg 4:8). As a result, Deborah said, "I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (Judg 4:9). So they did what God said and it happened as God said and, in the end, the enemy army was destroyed and a woman killed Sisera, their commander (Judg 4:10-24).

So, there's that concept again. If Barak had simply done what God had told him, it would have resulted in glory to Barak. He didn't, and it wouldn't. But the interesting thing is that in the text the victor is never unclear. God had told him "I will draw out Sisera" (Judg 4:6). In the battle Deborah told him, "The LORD has given Sisera into your hand" and "Does not the LORD go out before you?" (Judg 4:14). And in the end, "On that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel" (Judg 4:23). So, God did it, but Barak would have received glory for it. Just like the Christian life.

That's how it works, you see. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) but it's not like we do it. "It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). So we do it because God works in us. Or, in the terms of the story from Judges, we do it because God gives us the victory. Isn't it amazing, then, that there are blessings and rewards from God when we obey? We are able to work for God's good pleasure simply because He supplies the will and the ability to do so, and, in that, none of us have room to boast. And, still, He credits us for doing what He empowered. That's some marvelous deal!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Social Engineering

In the mid-20th century we had some scary folks out there. We had the Soviet Communists. On the face of it they were really nice people who just wanted everybody to be equal and have an equal share, but the way they went about it was so terrifying that socialists like George Orwell desperately sounded the alarm. In Soviet Russia your friends could report you for a thought-infraction and you could end up in Siberia for the rest of your life. How's that for social engineering? "Go along or die."

Mind you, it wasn't just the Soviets. In response to the "Red Scare," Senator Joseph McCarthy fired up the House Un-American Activities Committee. (It actually started back in 1938.) Blacklists were built and arrests were made and hundreds were imprisoned while thousands lost their jobs. Suspected communists and all sorts of sexual perverts were targeted. If you didn't "think right" (however they defined that), you could be in trouble.

Well, of course, all that is in the past. Soviet Russia is gone. McCarthyism is nothing but a blot on our history. It's over. But that's not entirely true, is it?

Reports are out about China's new invasive social engineering program. They've been incorporating advances in technology to monitor their people and create a social-credit system. It punishes "undesirable behavior" and rewards those who "do the right thing," where "do the right thing" is defined by the State. If you're "good," there can be benefits. If you are not, there will be consequences like restricted travel and poor credit ratings. What constitutes "bad"? Canceling a dinner reservation or jaywalking can cost you. If your best friend's dad says something negative about the government, you could lose points. Seriously.

Thank goodness we don't have anything like that in America. Right? Of course, we don't have anything like it in the American government. Surely not, but we've managed to accomplish it in our current mob rule. We call it "social media," but it often is not very sociable. Like Soviet Russia, if a friend reports you for something regardless of the veracity, you could pay, and you could pay dearly. If you quote someone who is on the "We hate him right now" list, it could go very poorly for you. People are being sanctioned, suspended, even fired for infractions, real or imagined. Sometimes an abject apology might help, but quite often it doesn't matter. Kiss it all goodbye. The Mob has spoken.

The problem, of course, is that governments can be removed. The Soviets came to an end. McCarthyism was brought down. China may not be able to sustain that kind of intrusion. But what do you do when the problem is the masses? They won't be going away anytime soon. You can't vote them out or overthrow them. They have the backing of our basic Constitutional rights behind them all while they intentionally undercut our basic Constitutional rights. They decry judgmentalism and intolerance and hate all while they practice each of those things.

China is trying out facial-recognition toilet paper dispensers in public bathrooms, for pity sake. They plan to track everyone everywhere and repay them for going along or not. Not to be outdone, our current technology encourages us to surrender our privacy and display our hate and bad thinking in order to properly and thoroughly thrash it ... with hate and bad thinking. This does not bode well for us.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Eph 4:1). What did he mean by "worthy"? It's not some super-secret. He just meant "equivalent," "appropriate" -- walk in a way that corresponds to the calling you've received. We understand that. It's an important word in Christianity because we are not worthy. It is the essence of grace. And for that we're grateful.

The word is used elsewhere, too. Scripture talks about "the LORD, who is worthy to be praised" (2 Sam 22:4). The most famous, I suppose are the ones in Revelation.
"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. (Rev 4:11)

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." (Rev 5:12)
What these texts are saying is that God receiving glory and honor and power and riches and wisdom and ... well, you can see the lists ... are all a matter of "worthy."

Worthy: equivalent, appropriate, equal in value. Why do we praise God? Because it's right; because He's worthy. Why does God deserve all the glory? Because He's worthy; because it's appropriate. Why is God the ultimate point, the highest being, the focus of all things? Because that is equal in value to Him; He is worthy. What is sin? Falling short of His glory (Rom 3:23). Or, to put it another way, failing to recognize and acknowledge and revel in His worthiness. Megalomaniac? Not at all. He's worthy. We don't worship Him because we ought; we worship Him because He above all is absolutely worthy. It corresponds to who He is.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

News Weakly - 10/13/18

"Islam" Means "Peace"
Tell that to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy. Politicians that tried to assist her were assassinated. Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, was shot by his own bodyguards for it. The headline reads, "Pakistan Islamists warn of 'terrible consequences' of blasphemy appeal." Oh, the blasphemy? She drank water from a neighbor's glass. They said she made disparaging remarks about Islam; she denies it and their witnesses have contradicted themselves. But, what can you expect in a nation that makes blasphemy punishable by death but doesn't define it and where evidence of it might be considered blasphemy? Tell me again about this "religion of peace." "You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means."

The Surprise Bigot
He's barely even there yet and the Left is talking about impeachment. Who? Justice Kavanaugh, of course. Duly selected, twice examined by the FBI, dressed and redressed, the likes of "We're not about impeachment" Nancy Pelosi and the "always fair and reasonable" online Left are busy signing petitions and urging the immediate removal of the new Justice. Then there is the Minnesota teacher who tweeted for someone to kill Kavanaugh. When did the Left become what they hate so much -- hateful, judgmental, intolerant bigots?

Like I Said
I mentioned before how we are a society of the offended. Here's a prime example. Astronaut Scott Kelly was commenting on the deep divisions in American politics. He quoted Winston Churchill who said, "in victory, magnanimity." Winners need to show grace. And the public went wild. How dare he quote a fiend like Churchill??? What's wrong with Kelly? And, Scott quickly apologized. "My apologies. I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support." And the public went wild. How dare he call Churchill a racist??? What's wrong with Kelly?

The land of the easily offended.

Protesters or Mob?
When President Trump decried Democrats' "mob rule", the media responded in scorn. "It's ridiculous. It's politics. The Republicans are simply trying to amp up the voters for the midterm elections. Don't be silly. These are just protesters. Peaceful protesters. Like Hillary said, you can't be civil as long as Republicans are in power. Oh, wait, strike that." "Protesters" brings up images of a group of people expressing strong objection; a "mob" suggests the same crowd, only disorderly and violent. Thus, semantically, when a "protest" turns violent, it is classified as a "mob" or even a "riot." So when "peaceful protesters" stage an assault on the doors of the Supreme Court or come to blows with their opposition or tear up signs for ideas they hate, that would be classified as "a mob" since it cannot be termed "peaceful."

In recent news Israel killed 6 Palestinian protesters. Tragic. Really. Except we have a problem with terminology. These "protesters" were burning tires and hurling rocks, firebombs, and grenades at the Israeli soldiers. Hamas doesn't even call them "protesters"; they call it a "siege." That, dear readers, is not "protesters." What we have here is a failure to communicate ... or, to be more accurate, an attempt to lie about the events in question.

There Really is a God
In the UK this week the unthinkable happened. Daniel and Amy McArthur, Christian bakers sued for ... well, you know ... were exonerated by their Supreme Court. "Announcing the ruling, Supreme Court president, Lady Hale, said: 'It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person's race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics.' 'But that is not what happened in this case and it does the project of equal treatment no favours to seek to extend it beyond its proper scope,' she continued. She said that freedom of expression includes the right to 'not to express an opinion which one does not hold'. 'This court has held that "nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe”', she said."

Amazing! Common sense from a liberal land with a liberal court. The only possible explanation is Divine Intervention.

When Humor Imitates Life
The Babylon Bee is at it again, spoofing real news with humorous fake stuff, like the one where Hillary Clinton urges the crowd to "Let the hate flow through you." Sure, it's all fun and giggles until you hear the real story. Not as flashy, but just as disturbing.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Wrong Right Answers

I was listening to a mother concerned about her teenage daughter. The age-old problem: the girl was interested in a "bad boy", a fellow with a less-than-savory character. Now, mind you, both mother and daughter were Christians. It's just that they were butting heads about this guy, and it wasn't going well. Mom was at her wits end.

I had a flood of thoughts on the matter, likely none of which would be helpful in the current emotional climate. Still ...

I wanted to know. Scripture is not unclear on the assignment from God for children and their parents. There are two primary commands. Neither is in question. First, "Honor your father and your mother" (Exo 20:12). This one is sprinkled throughout Scripture. God repeated it (Deut 5:16). Jesus repeated it (Matt 15:4; Matt 19:19; Luke 18:20). Paul repeated it (Eph 6:2). Pretty comprehensive. Second, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20). Clear enough. Honor and obey. So, what I wanted to know is why is this an issue to this mother and her daughter? The daughter does claim to love Jesus. Jesus did say, "If you love Me you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). So ... why is the daughter refusing to honor and obey her mother? I might expect something like, "My mother doesn't know what's best here." And I would be happy to stipulate that parents don't always know what's best in every situation. But I have to point out that the commands do not include "as long as you agree with their judgment." So if this daughter is going to be obedient to God, she would need to honor and obey her mother (trusting God in that) regardless of the quality of this guy.

I would want to know what happened to God's Sovereignty. We know that "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will." We know that God has set up a hierarchy (1 Cor 11:3) which, if it is true, puts God (not Dad, Mom, or child) at the top of the hierarchy. We know that God works all things together for good for those who love God (Rom 8:28). So it is not possible for Daughter to miss out on God's best because Mom blocked her from it. Apparently, though, it is. What happened to God's Sovereignty?

And, to be completely fair, I'd want to know about that same question from the mother. What happened to God's Sovereignty? Mom has the job of being the mother to Daughter. Got it. She needs to do so responsibly, to the best of her ability. Clear enough. She is not, however, alone nor ultimately responsible here. Wives are supposed to "be subject to your own husbands," even to those who don't obey the Word (1 Peter 3:1). In that hierarchy that God set up where parents are over children, He also set up that "the head of a wife is her husband" (1 Cor 11:3) ... under God. If God is Sovereign and Husband is not supporting Mom in her directions for Daughter, I would think that trusting God and obeying Husband would be a safe course to take under God.

Here's the problem, of course. Our entire society has gone to war against all of this. Kids are not to be under their parents. Parents are there to serve their kids. Wives are not to be submitting to their husbands. He doesn't know enough to come in out of the rain. Besides, that whole "biblical hierarchy" thing is a bunch of bunk. Ultimately, just like the serpent in the garden, what we know above all else is that God cannot be trusted. He's holding out on us. Like Daughter, we know better than anyone above us. And if we don't defy those above us, we'll be missing out.

You see, I hope, that there are lots of reasons that none of this should be a problem. I see, of course, that none of this really helps. These two leading characters are in the throes of a conflict where serious and real feelings are in play and serious and real dangers exist. "Trust and obey" is a good answer, but from the position of "taking fire," it's just not very "safe." So we have to work up another approach.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

It's Not What You Know

Go ahead. You can finish that, right? "It's not what you know; it's who you know." And in a lot of things these days, that may be true. In one very important item, however, it's not quite accurate, even if most of us think it is. That item is our salvation.

"Now, hang on," I can already hear you saying. "It is about knowing Jesus." You'd think so. That's why it's interesting what Paul writes. "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?" (Gal 4:9) Notice that Paul corrects himself in this statement. He first says that the Galatian Christians changed because "you have come to know God." Then he says, "or rather" -- a correction -- "to be known by God." Paul is saying here that the change from dead to life, from sinner to saved, from the former life to the new life is a product of being known by God.

Now, that has to sound weird. We know that God is Omniscient. We know that God knows everyone. But here there is some different element. What is it?

In Jeremiah God speaks about Israel's sin of worshiping Baal and throwing their daughters to burn with Molech. "I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination" (Jer 32:35). Is God saying, "I didn't see that coming"? If He is, He is admitting ignorance and denying Omniscience. Or is He saying, "It wasn't My plan. That's wasn't what was on My mind"? He's saying, "I didn't come up with that idea and I didn't command it." We also know that Scripture speaks often about a husband "knowing" his wife. For instance, in the 4th chapter of Genesis we read, "Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain" (Gen 4:1). Now, wait a minute! Adam has been hanging around Eve for several chapters. What's up with this? Well, of course, this is speaking about intimate knowing, not simple mental awareness. So we understand that knowing has various levels and meanings.

Jesus used the same kind of phrase. In the Sermon on the Mount He spoke about the false believers who will come to Him.
"On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matt 7:22-23)
There it is again. What does Jesus mean by "I never knew you"? Jesus knows everything and everyone. How could He not know them? They claimed to act on His behalf, but "The Lord knows who are His" (2 Tim 2:19). Jesus was saying that He didn't command it. They thought they were doing it for Him, but they weren't. They were, instead, "workers of lawlessness."

So what is it, then, that provides us with salvation? Is it our knowing Christ? Yes ... but that's not comprehensive enough because "The Natural Man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). Knowledge of God is insufficient. What is required is a relationship with God, and the point Paul and Jesus are trying to make is that God initiates that relationship. God begins that intimacy with us. Paul says that we start out "dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked" (Eph 2:1-2), and the solution is "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us" (Eph 2:4), "made us alive together with Christ" (Eph 2:5). "Now, wait!" you might be tempted to argue. "God loves everyone." True, but, again, not in the same way, because if that was the love Paul was referring then that love made us all alive together with Christ ... and you've arrived at universalism.

We are called "the church", but the real translation is "the called-out ones." We are "the elect." Not on our own, not from our own efforts, not because we're special, but because of God's choice for His purposes (Rom 9:11) so that none can boast. We didn't choose Him; He chose us (John 15:16). That started with a special love applied to us by God. It started by God knowing us in a special way. That "being known by God" is what initiates our salvation. So it's not what you know or even who you know when it comes to salvation; it's Who knows you ... in a deep and personal way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


I have tried to allow God's Word to shape my knowledge, understanding, and worldview. If God's Word says "X" and I have believed "Y" (or even "B"), I conclude, "Well, B must be wrong and I need to embrace X." In this way, the Bible is fundamental to my faith, my doctrines, my belief structures, my life principles, and my worldview. It is the foundation.

Others don't think like this. There is, in fact, quite a gamut, obviously. On the other end, the Bible is fairly worthless. It's a man-made, wholly fallible, fairly useless gathering of ideas, myths, and lies that provides no real value at all. That's the other end. In between, of course, there is a wide range of possibilities. There are those who highly value the Bible in word, but when you look at their position they "highly value" it only as far as they will allow. If it says that God commanded Israel to eradicate a particular group of people at a particular time, that obviously didn't happen. If it says that God can override human free will, that clearly doesn't happen. It can't mean that. They do genuinely highly regard the Bible, but, in essence, only as far as they can throw it. Then there are those who have great respect for the Bible, but only in so far as it "contains" the Word of God, not the whole thing. That would be silly. To them, some of the Bible is God's Word and valuable, but just what that part is varies. Well, you get the idea.

I'm amazed at the number of self-professed Christians who regard God's Word as sort of supplemental. They have their beliefs and they have their faith and they have, almost as an addendum -- an appendix -- the Bible. It's a sort of questionable reference book. "I believe X and Y and Z," they will tell you and when the Bible agrees they'll say, "See? Says so right here." When it doesn't, they'll explain why it's wrong. Generally it's wrong because it doesn't agree with their views. To this crowd, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so" is a wrong approach. That's because their premise starts somewhere else. Maybe it's popular opinion. Maybe it's their basic philosophy. Maybe it's their own minds. "Look," they tell me, "I know the Bible says that this is sin, but, clearly, it isn't because we know better." These will tell you they highly regard Scripture and then tell you, "Consensual sex between adults is never evil." Really? What Bible are you reading? But it's easy to understand because they are not basing their views and values on God and His Word; they're basing it somewhere else. Primarily on themselves.

Everything has a basis. Your views and my views have fundamentals. I am accused of being a "fundamentalist" (one of those words whose meaning has migrated from the original definition to a new, emotionally-charged insult) because I believe in the basics of the Bible. The truth is all of us are fundamentalists in the original intent of the word. We all have fundamentals. We all adhere to them. We all make our thoughts, conclusions, views, values, and actions from them. There are some who use God's Word as the core values from which to think and act. Most don't, including many who claim to highly regard God's Word.

I found out something interesting recently. In the Bible there are New Testament references to "heresies." At least, that's the King James version. More modern versions translate them as the "factions," or "division." The Greek word is indeed the origin of our word, "heresy." In his epistle to the Galatians Paul warns that the flesh produces lots of bad things including "heresies" (Gal 5:20). Translated elsewhere as "divisions," "sects," or "factions", the word is αἵρεσις -- hairesis. Thus, "heresies." Paul used the word when he told the Corinthians "There must be no heresies (or factions or divisions) among you" (1 Cor 11:19). Peter used it when he referred to the "damnable heresies" brought by false prophets (2 Peter 2:1). Same word. Paul told Timothy to reject a "factious man" ("heretick" -- KJV) after admonishing him a first and second time (Titus 3:10). That word is αἱρετικός -- aihretikos. That's the same basic word. The root word for these is αἱρέομαι -- aihreomai. This word means "to take for oneself." And that makes a lot of sense. When "take for ourselves" becomes the fundamental that we serve, it produces all kinds of heresy, division, factions, and lies. So when we take the Bible as supplementary to our fundamentals "as far as that goes," we operate primarily from ... aihreomai -- taking for ourselves. And that is a wholly different kind of fundamentalism -- the heretical kind.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Word of the Day

Here's a word for you: "syncretism." The dictionary defines it as "the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion." Notice that it has particular reference to religion. Think, for instance, of Santeria. Practiced in Cuba and parts of the Caribbean (and in the U.S. when brought by people from those places), Santeria is a religion that merged Roman Catholicism with the local worship of Yoruba deities -- basically, voodoo practices. Santeria is classic syncretism.

Syncretism is an art that many Christians and many churches have indulged, embraced, and skillfully advanced. From practices and strategies to actual beliefs, we've become quite adept and incorporating the world in the church. On the face of it that doesn't really seem too bad, except that Jesus calls it "My church" so it would seem unwise to mix the systems of the god of this world with the Bride of Christ.

Still, we've really dipped into it, and not just today. There is the syncretism of philosophies, where we adapt God's Word to the perspective of the day. In earlier times it was Gnosticism and legalism addressed as early as the first century in Scripture itself. Others incorporated the "evils of the flesh" in the sense that "physical is evil," a view from Plato, not God. That's carried over into the Victorian era and even floats about in the Roman Catholic world today. And, of course, we've got our own modern versions. "The Bible never said anything about homosexuality," they tell us today. "What makes you think that the world was created in seven literal days," you're sure to hear. None of these are because the texts support them. They are pure syncretism.

In Paul's day there was a syncretism of salvation. He wrote his epistle to the church at Galatia over that. We're beyond it; we know we're saved by grace apart from works ... but we keep wanting to sneak in that whole "saved by works" thing to one extent or another. We're pretty sure that there are things we need to do in order to be saved. Surely you can't drive a beer truck and be a Christian, right? So we buy into the world's "mode of salvation" -- salvation by works -- and build unbiblical standards which, amazingly, genuine Christians often don't meet.

Very popular in more recent decades is the syncretism of marketing practices. Jesus said, "I will build My church" (Matt 16:18), but we're here to fill in the gaps that He has. So we treat the church like a business. We run the numbers, employ the marketing techniques that grow a business, and build churches with cool, worldly components to draw people in. Of course, that's not the purpose of the church (Eph 4:11-16) or even our job, but, hey, we're going to run with it.

One I've seen in growing numbers is the syncretism of feminism. Feminism on the face of it was to simply seek for the equality of women. All well and good. But in the hands of sinful humans, it couldn't go well. Much of it turned anti-male. It's the fault of men that women aren't seen as equal. While men edged out of churches, women surged in, and much of our common practices these days are directed by and aimed at women, excluding men. It doesn't take a super-genius to read the Bible and see God's handprint of patriarchy in there (e.g., 1 Cor 11:3), but our perspective today is that patriarchy is evil. Women will tell women, "Ladies, we run the church." And by no means should you suggest that women shouldn't be pastors ... you know ... like it says in the Bible (1 Tim 2:12-14). Why? Because we've managed to incorporate the world's version of feminism instead of God's version (e.g., 1 Peter 3:7; Gal 3:28).

We think we're doing okay. We call it "progress" and think we're coming up with new ideas, improvements, better plans. We don't even notice we're doing it because we're too immersed in the world's views to realize that these are coming from there, not God's Word. So we need to remind ourselves that we are called to be different. We are called to be separate, to be holy, to be renewed in our minds rather than conformed to the world, to be something new, not something old. If you think about it, dragging stinking carcasses from the world into our churches as if they're an improvement really makes no sense, does it? So we need to be aware, conscious, and careful. We should be "examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11) rather than aligning our views and our churches with a world that is the enemy of God.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Friends and Enemies

We are sometimes confused by what seems to be common terms these days. We use the word "love" to mean "deep affection" or "casual sex." We use the word "marriage" to mean "lifelong commitment" or "partnership of convenience ... until something better comes along." We use the word "friend" to mean "someone who has your best interests in mind" or "someone who doesn't care about what's best for you, but pats you on the back no matter what."

Paul wrote to the Galatians,
Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? (Gal 4:16)
Paul's was a rhetorical question. The assumption was that telling someone the truth (especially, as Paul was, in their best interest) did not make you their enemy. Today? Not so much. Telling the truth today may be regarded as friendly or may be regarded as an assault. Why? Because we don't know what a "friend" is anymore. We think it's someone who pats you on the back and tells you to just be yourself. "It's all good."

This is, of course, an oversimplification and a generalization. We know, for instance, that a friend doesn't tell her poor friend, "Embrace your poverty." She tries to help. It isn't a good friend who sees you about to step on a rattlesnake and does nothing to help. If there's a problem, a good friend steps in to support you. That's what friends are for. It's just that we've largely relinquished the right to say, "This is good and that is bad."

If we have a reliable truth source, then, and that source says things like, "The sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God," I think we can safely say, "That's a bad thing." And a good person would want to warn a friend about something bad like that. If that source says that preaching a gospel contrary to the one we were given is accursed, I think it's reasonable to say, "I wouldn't want my friends to be accursed," and attempt to dissuade them from doing so.

We've all heard "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me" and we've all said, "Not so!" (or something to that effect). In this day and age of politically correct speech and a backlash against "hate speech" and all, we know that words can hurt. No doubt. But here's the question. If the words are true, even if they hurt, "Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?" Or does "truth" get nullified by "hurt"? Yes, by all means, we need to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Speaking the truth hatefully is not friendship. But truth spoken in love should not be considered a contradiction to being a friend. It's just our culture that sees it that way.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Other Omni

I've talked about God's Omnipotence (possessing all power) and God's Omniscience (knowing everything), so I should probably touch on that last "omni" -- God's Omnipresence.

So, first the easy part. "Omni" means "all" and "presence" means "presence." Thus, "omnipresence" means "present everywhere." Okay, that was simple. But, is it true? Is it a tradition or a biblical fact?

Solomon wrote, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good" (Prov 15:3), so we know He sees every place. Paul wrote, "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Col 1:17), so we know that all matter is contained in Him. Jeremiah says, "'Am I a God who is near,' declares the LORD, 'And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?' declares the LORD. 'Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?' declares the LORD" (Jer 23:23-24). Perhaps Psalm 139 gives us the most explicit and expansive text on the subject.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. (Psa 139:7-10)
Well, that's about everywhere, isn't it? Pretty clear. Heaven, hell, here, there, wherever ... God is there. Not tradition; Scripture.

We need to be careful here. There are those that argue that Hell is simply the absence of God. If God is Omnipresent, that simply can't be. It could be the absence of the knowledge of the presence of God, but God's Omnipresence requires that He be everywhere at the same time and if He is not He is not Omnipresent. Another key point we need to dodge is the growing popularity of pantheism. "God is in everything." It doesn't simply say God is everywhere; it says God is everything. that's called idolatry. Conversely, deism as a formal belief is not common, but as a practice is everywhere. They think that God is "there", perhaps, but He's "hands off." You'll find it in strange cultic views or in everyday Christian perspectives where nature and sin occur outside of God's control and His hands are tied. It's just not so.

So what? God's Omnipresence has many ramifications. It means that He is accessible because He is present. It means that He is aware ("The eyes of the LORD are in every place") because He is present. It means that God doesn't miss your pain or problems. He is there. It means you can't hide from God. He's there. And we look forward to the day when we realize His presence, when we "make real" the presence that is real even when we're not aware of it. Every time we go to church, we worship, we pray, we delve into His Word, we share Him with others either in fellowship or in evangelism, we declare His presence. And I declare, with David, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it" (Psa 139:6).