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Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Lord's Day

There was a time when I was growing up that you just planned not to do much on a Sunday. You could probably find a gas station or a restaurant open here and there, but the malls (new in those days) weren't open and most other businesses were closed. No one worked on Sunday except emergency jobs (fire, police, hospital workers, etc.). There was a time that they even had "blue laws" in which most states did not allow alcohol sales on Sunday. (In fact, Washington D.C. had one of these "blue laws" on the books until it was repealed in 2013. What was up with that?)

There was a time when Christians took seriously the Scripture that says, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates" (Exo 20:8-10) Since they viewed Sundays as "the Lord's Day," the Christian Sabbath, there was to be no work on Sundays. (I knew a guy in the '90's who believed that taking Saturday off was wrong. "Six days you shall labor," he said.) So they regarded Sunday as a day that belonged to God, not them.

We've come a long way since then, haven't we? Every day is our own. We might go to church on Sunday, although we might interrupt that practice if the kids have a soccer game or something. We'll go on Sunday if we can, but, look, a lot of us have jobs that require that we work on Sundays. What are we to do? Our society has no regard for Sunday and Christians seem to have followed suit, whittling it down to the stick of a "church service" as long as it doesn't interfere with anything else we want to do.

Scripture refers to the first day of the week as "the Lord's Day." We've largely taken that from him. We Christians, I mean. What would it take to actually regard the first day of the week as "the Lord's Day"? How would that change our lives, our thinking, our outlook? What does it say about us that too many of us can't be bothered to even gather with God's people once a week, let alone set aside a day for Him? It bothers me, and I'm not just talking to you. I don't believe I'm doing it justice, either.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

News Weakly - 6/29/19

Hostile Environment
Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg faced angry protesters over a shooting in his city. They told him that if he didn't fire his police officers, he didn't care about black lives and wouldn't get black votes. Now, mind you, I'm not a Buttigieg fan, so this isn't about him. However, the fact is that the incident is under investigation and the officer involved is on administrative leave and South Bend, Indiana, as far as I know, is still in America, so the police officer in question is still innocent until proven guilty. The demand for immediate firing (and whatever further punishments they deem fit) indicates that our country is now a hostile environment ... for American jurisprudence.

License to Kill
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed four abortion bills passed by the Republican-controlled legislature last week. Oh, it wasn't a surprise. He ran as a pro-abortion candidate and promised to veto them. "'Everyone should have access to quality, affordable healthcare, and that includes a mother's right to kill,' Evers said in a statement." Okay, so I changed the exact words. He obviously said "reproductive healthcare," but if they can change the language to mean something completely different ("reproductive healthcare" means "not reproducing" and "killing human beings"?), then I can, too. Especially if my language is closer to the truth.

One Small Step?
For the longest time the courts have held that property owners cannot go to federal court to find protection of the use of their private property when local courts don't give it. The Supreme Court took a monumental step last week and ruled to override that precedent. Now, this is property rights and not something that is that big, but the question still hangs in the air. If they're willing to override precedent there, where else might they do it? Like, say, Roe v Wade? (Note: I would suggest that without a move of God on the hearts of Americans, this isn't likely. Abortion isn't a legal problem; it's a "heart of man" problem.)

GLAAD conducted its annual "Accelerating Acceptance" survey and found that people ages 18-34 are decreasingly comfortable with LGBTQ people. In that age group, the most recent level of those who would feel uncomfortable with an LGBTQ family member was at 36%, up from 24% in 2016. Their solution? Bring LGBTQ characters and stories to a world where male audiences are consuming content. So, is that propaganda or brain-washing? I'm not clear.

Exclusive Inclusivity
Remember Israel Folau? He is the Australian Rugby player that got his contract rescinded by Rugby Australia because he expressed a biblical view of homosexual sin. Folau (right or wrong) started a GoFundMe page to get contributions to recover his lost wages. He had collected more than $750,000 when GoFundMe Australia simply pulled the plug. They removed his page saying, among other things, that they were committed to "fostering an environment of inclusivity." Do not anticipate reason to prevail here. You cannot be inclusive by being exclusive.

Who's the Sensible One Now?
And why is self-proclaimed "unrepentant atheist" Peter Singer making more sense than Rugby Australia, the mainstream media, and even a lot of Christians? Why does he see that "the post no more expresses hatred toward homosexuals than cigarette warnings express hatred toward smokers"?

Democracy in Action
This is a weird story. Apparently 11 Republican lawmakers in Oregon are on the run. They're in hiding. Some have even left the state. "I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon," one senator told a Portland TV station. What's going on?

Well, the Democratic-dominated state senate is trying to vote on a climate bill, but with the absence of the 11, they don't have a quorum to take a vote. Unfortunately, there are "more than 100 other bills" waiting for funding and could possibly be scrapped. The runaways claim that the bill will hurt jobs and raise gas prices, but they don't have the slightest chance of voting it down. So they're on the run and the governor has authorized the state police to track them down. "It is absolutely outrageous," Gov. Brown said, adding "In Oregon, this is not how we solve problems." No, the way they solve problems is to arrest the opposition and force them to participate in a cause they fiercely disagree with. That is democracy in action. (For the sake of clarification, I'm not supporting the runaways here. It looks to me like neither side is in the right here. Besides, what in the world are Republicans doing in the leftist state of Oregon?)

An Un-American Utopia
The leadership of St. Louis Park, MN, voted unanimously to refuse to pledge allegiance to the United States. The goal is "to accommodate the city’s increasingly diverse population." That's the way to do it. Eliminate allegiance to the country that made it possible to make such a foolish thing to be done.

It's not new. The NBA is working at eliminating the term "owner" because a lot of players are black -- sorry, African-American -- and calling someone the "owner" of a franchise feels racist. You know, even if he is, like, the owner. As if the owner of a team or a business or a corporation actually owns his employees?

Or the story that Illinois is becoming the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Why? Well, it provides revenue for the state and clears the records of nearly 800,000 people convicted of possession. The sad truth is that offenders are "forced to live in permanent second-class citizenship." So sad. So the remedy is to make it legal. Now, tell me again what was the purpose of passing laws?

Following this line of thinking, we should eliminate anything "American" to avoid offending non-Americans, change any and all terms that are deemed offensive to someone somewhere (which would, in essence, eliminate most terms), and legalize anything that causes a negative impact on people should they violate the law against it. A better way forward, I'm sure.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Gospel

Have you heard the story about Tarek El Moussa? Tarek is a reality series star of Flip or Flop. Back in 2013 a registered nurse was watching a marathon show, spotted a lump on Tarek's neck, and contacted the show's producers to suggest he get it checked out. It turned out that the nurse had rightly recognized the symptom of a tumor. It turned out that Tarek had Stage-2 thyroid cancer and today Tarek is in remission because of the anti-Tarek sentiment of this nosy nurse.

Oh, wait, that's not how we see that, right? Nope, that nurse was a hero, possibly saving his life. The guy had cancer, someone figured out the danger, and notifying him was a good thing. So why doesn't that work elsewhere?

Rugby player Israel Folau was fired from Rugby Australia for posting that homosexuals go to hell. Mind you, it's not Israel's idea. That one comes straight out of the Bible (1 Cor 6:9-10). (He quoted it in the article.) Rugby Australia canceled his contract because they wouldn't tolerate hate. So warning El Moussa that he might have cancer was kind and even heroic, but warning people about the sin of homosexual behavior that the Bible says results in eternal torment is hate? (And why are so many people that do not believe in hell so upset that he warns about a fake place?)

Here's what I'm not saying. I'm not arguing for Israel Folau. Folau has gone on to other things. He has been working hard to raise money for his legal defense, sued the organization, and been shot down by GoFundMe for trying to raise the money through them. I don't agree with Folau. Paul wrote, "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, so be sure to get good lawyers." Oh, no ... he didn't. The biblical perspective is 1) we will be persecuted (Phil 1:29; 1 Peter 4:19) and 2) thank God for it (Rom 5:3-5; 1 Peter 4:16, etc.). There isn't much "Fight for your rights!" in the New Testament. There is a lot of "rejoice in suffering" (Matt 5:10-12; James 1:1-4; etc.). I don't find a single reference to "go to court to get your just dues." Maybe there might be instances when there is a good reason to take your case to the public, but I don't see it here. Nor am I backing Folau's theology. He is touted as a Bible-believing Christian and a fundamentalist, but denies the Trinity, rendering him neither Bible-believing nor fundamentalist. Nor am I arguing for religious freedom. Since the beginning we've had to choose whether we would obey God or man (Acts 4:19-20).

Here's what I am saying. Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). We were told to proclaim the Gospel (Mark 16:15) and, more importantly, make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). The Bible is full of warnings about the consequences of sin and we are commanded to love, and ignoring people headed for consequences of sin would not be loving. Folau probably didn't do the best job of expressing the Gospel, but we live in a world that is hostile to God (Rom 8:7) and the cross (1 Cor 1:18). We err, I believe, by focusing solely on the sins of a small group called "homosexuals" today when there is a larger group called "unbelievers" who equally need to hear the bad news -- the wages of sin is death -- and the good news -- the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 6:23). But in no case is "Ah, let 'em alone to die in their sin and trespasses" a good thing. And we shouldn't be guilty of it. We won't be viewed as heroes like that nurse was, but let's also not be silent in the face of such suffering simply because it's not socially acceptable to speak up.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Leaders in the Church

Our Sunday morning group recently went through 1 Timothy 3, the defining "qualification of overseers" passage. (Biblically overseers ("bishops" in the KJV) and elders and pastors are interchangeable terms. If elders/pastors/overseers all refer to basic church leadership, I'll just abbreviate it as "EPO" to save my typing fingers.) While it all seems straightforward and clear, I find that it brings up more questions than you might have originally thought. Skim the list and see if you can anticipate some of them.

Husband of One Wife (1 Tim 3:2)
This is perhaps one of the most puzzling discussions you will encounter in this text. What does "husband of one wife" mean. On the surface it's clear -- the guy can only be married to one woman. Done! But hold on. Does that mean that he must be married? If that's the case, then neither Jesus nor Paul could have served in that capacity. "But they weren't," some tell me. Then you would also have to hold that when a pastor's wife dies, he has to step down, right? That doesn't seem right. Okay, so perhaps actually being married is optional. But "of one wife"? Some argue it's a reference to polygamy, but almost no one in the 1st century either in the church or even in the society in which they found themselves practiced polygamy. So was it like telling them, "No one can park camels in the parking lot"? You know ... it could have happened, but it just didn't. That seems silly. So they tell me, "That means that he is only married once." That seems fine until you carry it out to the next logical conclusion. What about the pastor whose wife dies and he remarries? Now he has been married twice! "Out you go!" No, of course not. So now they tell me that this is a reference to divorced and remarried men. They cannot serve as EPOs. Is that the case? What about the guy who is married at 18, his wife leaves him at 19, he meets Christ at 22, and is now a new creature, seriously. He is a living reflection of Christ in practice and the faith. "Sorry," you'd have to tell me, "his past excludes him from that role in the church." So what Christ forgives and remakes we cannot accept?

There is another version of this phrase. The literal translation is actually "one woman man." Could it simply be that the requirement for EPOs is that they be of a faithful character in their relationships with women? If he is married, he is wholly devoted to his wife. If he is not married, he doesn't have a roving eye. He isn't a "wolf." God knows (I mean that quite literally) we have enough of those in positions of authority in our churches. Could it be that this is a defining requirement for elders and pastors and it's not about being married or divorced or widowed? (By the way, I know of no one who argues that if a pastor's wife dies, he has to step down. I'm just pointing out that it's a logical conclusion if you hold that phrase a particular way.)

Now, does this "husband of one wife" therefore require that it be a male? It would seem that no matter how you end up interpreting the phrase in terms of "one wife," it is still mandatory that one qualification is that an EPO be a male (cp 1 Tim 2:11-15).

He must Manage his Household Well (1 Tim 3:4-5)
This one is pretty clear. We don't have a lot of dispute about its meaning. What we do have is a general disregard for this one. It says he should be "keeping his children submissive" and is predicated on "If someone does not know now to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" The reason I say it's largely ignored is that most people who have spent much time in churches know that stereotypically the worst kids in any given church are the pastor's kids. Yes, that's a generalization, but it is so often true. These are the kids that feel privileged to do what they please because "My dad's the pastor" and no one is telling them otherwise. But if Scripture teaches that a requirement for these EPOs is that they manage their house well with submissive children and the general truth is that pastors often dedicate so much time to their congregation that they neglect their families to some degree, wouldn't that disqualify them? If someone does not know now to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?

Not be a Recent Convert (1 Tim 3:6)
Now "recent convert" is decidedly vague. I've heard, for instance, of child preachers. To me, any child is, by definition, a recent convert. But exactly how long is "recent"? Some try to work in something like "Enough time to have gone to seminary or Bible school," but Bible schools and seminaries didn't exist in Paul's day and no such requirement for EPOs is found in Scripture. We often require "has the proper education" in our list of prerequisites, but "the proper education" is an extrabiblical concept that cannot be confirmed by Scripture. So what is a "recent convert"?

There are a lot of very clear qualifications listed in this text (and largely repeated over in Titus 1:5-11). I'm not at all sure that we as a body of believers at any give church spend much time paying attention to them. How else do you find super rich pastors of megachurches ("not a lover of money"(1 Tim 3:3)), or pastors and elders who are sexual predators ("husband of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2)) or EPOs who are drunkards or violent or quarrelsome (1 Tim 3:3)? Why do so many churches suffer from leaders who are not "above reproach" (1 Tim 3:2) or "well though of by outsiders" (1 Tim 3:7)? Could it be that we're not paying attention to the Scriptures we claim? I think these qualifying characteristics are not "cookie cutter" traits; they require careful consideration on an individual basis. Still, if we're not willing to rock the boat on this clear biblical text, why would we be surprised when we find so many other problems in our churches that God's Word addresses so clearly? "It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God" (1 Peter 4:17).

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

A Glitch in the Book

Christians believe that the Bible is God's Word, breathed out by God, reliable, and authoritative. This is all well and good, but what happens if you find a glitch in the Book?

I was reading along in Paul's first letter to Timothy when I came across this:
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Tim 4:12)
Clearly a mistake. Who would despise Timothy for his youth? Old people aren't particularly respected these days because we have almost exclusively a youth culture. I cannot count the numbers of shows, movies, sitcoms, etc. that are built on youth as the key players. There are lots of stories told in which the foolish adults -- parents, teachers, pastors, whatever -- are corrected by the wise children, the younger the better. Who in our society does not know that "old = stale" and "young = fresh"? Why would Timothy have to be told to not let anyone despise him for his youth? See? A glitch in the Book.

Of course, it isn't. Instead, I would argue that what we find is a glitch in modern society. According to the National Council on Aging, about 1 in 10 Americans from 60 on up have experienced some form of elder abuse. There is a problem with that statistic, however, because the estimate is that only 1 in 14 of them actually get reported. Estimates are that up to 5 million elderly Americans are abused each year. And all indications are that these numbers are on the rise. Given our current youth culture, this would seem like an obvious consequence.

As is too often the case, the world's way of thinking has also leaked into the church. At our church when our pastor left they handed out a questionnaire to find out what we want in a pastor and one of the common consensus items was, essentially, "not too old." There are churches today advertising themselves as "not your grandparents' church" because everyone knows that grandparents aren't cool and for church to be meaningful and relevant it has to be youth-oriented. I have on more than one occasion heard comments about churches that have a significant number of older members as being "on their way out." Often even in Christian church settings, the notion is "younger is better."

Scripture, unfortunately, disagrees with the world's perspective. God told Israel, "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD" (Lev 19:32). He told them, "Honor your father and your mother" (Exo 20:12) which Paul repeated (Eph 6:2). Paul told Timothy, "Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father" (1 Tim 5:1). Job said, "Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days" (Job 12:12). Solomon counseled, "Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old" (Prov 23:22). With these and others, God's Word seems clear. God intended younger people to respect and learn from older people. Is it any wonder, then, that the god of this world would seek to counter that wisdom?

A glitch in the Book? No, not at all. What we are seeing is a generation worshiping youth at the cost of years of experience and wisdom that reside in the older generation. This cannot be good for society. But, then, who would expect the father of lies to be concerned about what God thinks or what's good for society?

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

An Opinion on Rules

I'm told that I'm too reliant on God's Word. I'm told that it's not a book of rules, that it's not really a rule for life. It's just ... oh, I don't know ... guidance, suggestions, ideas, possibilities. You do what you think is best.

This seems right to many, but I have a hard time correlating that idea with passages like this:
I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (1 Tim 3:14-15)
It doesn't sound like Paul was writing these things (Remember, Peter refers to Paul's writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16) with a "do what you think is best" intent. It sounds like he meant "I'm writing these things so you may know how to behave." It sounds like ... rules.

But, hey, I could be wrong. It's just my opinion, right?

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Meaningless Cross of Christ

This last week the Supreme Court ruled that a monument in Maryland could remain. The controversial monument is the Peace Cross, a World War I memorial in the shape of a large Latin cross intended to memorialize the 49 men from Prince George's County who died during the war. The American Legion commissioned it and the formal dedication took place in 1925. Not quite but almost a hundred years later (2017) the American Humanist Association sued to have it removed as a violation of the 1st Amendment Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court ruled against them.

This may seem like a win for us. I think that the ruling is legally correct; it is not a case of establishment of religion. But if you ask me if I think it's a good thing, I would argue otherwise. The court ruled 7-2 that the monument meant nothing religious anymore. The monument didn't push Christianity as a State religion even though the cross is clearly a Christian symbol. It had been there so long that it didn't say "Christian" anymore. Familiarity, they said, made it neutral.

I say, then, that this isn't a win for us for that reason. We've arrived at a point of saturation in this country where the symbol of the cross and even the message behind it have become so familiar that it is now meaningless. "Nice cross. Nice jewelry. Whatever. Yeah, yeah, Jesus died for my sins. Whatever. Care for a cup of coffee?" So far have we come that even Christians don't see it as really significant. You wear a cross? So what? Doesn't mean anything anymore. More to the point, many who take the name of Christ these days find that of mild interest for themselves. "Yes, I'm a Christian. Aren't we all?" Studies suggest that a majority of Americans bear the name "Christian" (~75%) but an extreme minority (~5%) think that it makes any difference in their lives. Familiarity has bred contempt.

Don't let that be you. Don't be one that wonders, "What's the big deal?" Don't be one that is a casual Christian. The life of the believer is not casual; it is radical. And if, in your experience, it is not, you might want to reexamine that relationship, because Jesus came to change lives, not mummify them. The Supreme Court ruled in this case that the cross is not connected to Christ. We must not concur, especially in our everyday lives.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Practical and the Sublime

We often try to distinguish between theoretical Christianity and practical Christianity. You know how that goes. "All that doctrine and stuff is all well and good, but I need something that relates to me." The idea is that the theoretical and the practical don't really mix. There's all those highfalutin "Christianese" words like "justification" and "sanctification" and "the perspicuity of Scripture" (which, unfortunately, means that it's basically simple to understand -- couldn't they have chosen an easier-to-understand term for that?) and such, but what I need know is what I should do tomorrow and where my needs are going to be met. I mean, we're happy (theoretically) with all those cool doctrinal things, but what we want is where the rubber meets the road.

It's funny, then, how Scripture often seems to go in reverse. For instance, Paul wrote to Timothy, "I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth" (1 Tim 3:14-15). Thank you, Paul. "How one ought to behave" is imminently practical. Just the kind of thing we need. Then he follows that with "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory" (1 Tim 3:16). Right from "how one ought to behave" to the wondrous glory of Christ. Without missing a beat.

It appears as if the two depend on one another. It seems that orthodoxy and orthopraxy are interlinked. (Yes, I know, a couple more of those "Christianese" words. "Orthodoxy" refers to the right way of thinking, in this sense about biblical doctrine. "Orthopraxy" is the right way of living -- right practice.) It appears that only when we get the right way of thinking about God and His universe can we get the right way of acting in it. Conversely, acting rightly in our existence leads us closer to the right way of thinking. In the 1st Timothy example above, Paul indicates that the glory of Christ was the truth, the reason for "the church of the living God" whose task is to be the support of the truth, and that task is accomplished by behaving as one ought to behave. We best defend God's truth when we live it, and we best live God's truth when we know it. A circle.

"Relevant." That's the word we keep using. "How is this doctrine stuff relevant?" "How is the sermon at church relevant?" "How is all this singing worship songs and gathering with believers relevant?" They are interlocked and self-feeding. One encourages the other and vice versa. Want to follow Christ? He is "the Truth" (John 14:6), so know the truth. What does knowing the truth lead to? A changed heart and a changed will and an intent to follow Him better. Round and round it goes, the practical and the sublime. Embrace them.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

News Weakly - 6/22/19

Politicians Who Hate Small Business
Kamala Harris joined in a protest in Las Vegas demanding unions and $15/hr minimum for McDonald's workers (and, obviously, everyone else). A wise observer commented, "These minimum wage jobs don't have any opportunity for people to make a living and support a family." He's right. The story went on to say, "New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Obama housing secretary Julian Castro and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have all appeared with employees of the fast-food giant around the country. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker were expected to join McDonald’s workers at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday." There's a quick, short list of politicians who hate small business. "Small business??" Yes. Corporate McDonald's recognizes the right to unions and the average starting wage for their restaurants exceeds $10/hr. It's the franchises that are paying minimum wage because controlling cost is the only way those small business folks can make a go of it. Nearly 90% with a target of 95% of McDonald's are franchised. Undercutting the small business McDonald's folks cannot be termed "small business friendly." Maybe those folks are eating fast food? Oh, and that summer job for teens? Yeah, count that one out, too. You know, those do-it-yourself kiosks don't demand $15/hr at all.

New York City is going to be the first city in the U.S. to make all of its citizens complicit in the murder of babies in that city. They'll do it by making New Yorkers pay for abortions. New Yorkers that actually care about babies' lives may need to move, but what do we do when the nation makes us all complicit like so many Democratic candidates for President intend?

Coming Soon to a Country Near You?
Quebec has banned religious symbols for certain public workers in their province. The workers would include "public servants in positions of authority" to include teachers, judges, police officers, etc. The Parti Quebecois wanted to see daycare workers and private school teachers included, but they weren't. Minister Jolin-Barrette said, "It is legitimate for a society like ours to decide how the relationship between the state and religion is going to be handled." The aim is to promote a secular Quebec, so apparently the relationship will be ... banned.

It Hurts
While the Supreme Court turned down the case of the baker in Oregon who was fined for practicing their 1st Amendment rights, a Cracker Barrel in Tennessee refused to serve a church group because they didn't like what their pastor believed. I'm pretty sure there will be no lawsuits here or, if there are, no court action here. Because of the double standard in this country.

That's not really what hurts, though. What hurts is that this guy whose group was refused service is a nincompoop (I'm trying to be nice) who advocates the arrest and execution of LGBT folk. He states it in his sermon of all things, like it's a message from God. He is the pastor of the -- this is painful -- All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville. It's painful because he's ignoring Scripture to do it. It hurts because he gives Christ and His followers a black eye in preaching such nonsense. It hurts because I'd want to ban him from my restaurant, too. But two wrongs don't make a right.

Christians are accused of being too judgmental. While I think that individuals might be (and that would be individual Christians and any other individual), I don't think that 1) judgmentalism is a biblical Christian value or that 2) Christians have a corner on the market. Joe Biden, who is not my candidate, is in trouble with his own. What for? Trying to position himself as a candidate who can work with anyone to get things done, he told about how he worked with Dixiecrats, pro-Jim Crow Senate Democrats, in his early days to get things done. "In a political culture increasingly focused on past sins against racial and gender equality," the story says, he has crossed the line. Reaching across the aisle is out in today's ethos, but definitely with anyone who has ever committed one of today's unpardonable sins at any time in their existence. In our world today, the sins of the father are indeed passed on to the children, and if you ever once held a view that opposes popular views on gay rights or relations between genders or racial equality perspectives and so on is now beyond forgiveness, to be relegated to the trash heap. The fact that the opposition to ending slavery and bringing all people under the equal protection of the law was the Democratic party. They can forgive themselves for that, but you guys ... not so much! So who's judgmental now?

No Justice
I'm not getting this one. "Lawmakers in New York state have voted to eliminate criminal penalties for public possession and use of marijuana." They did not legalize the use of marijuana; they simply eliminated the penalties. Apparently they can't get the voters to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana, so they've provided an end-around maneuver. Because that is both democracy and justice ... or neither.

Where is your argument now?
The courts in the UK have ordered a woman to get an abortion. She is in her twenties and she, her mother, and her state social worker all oppose the abortion. Wrong in so many ways. So much for "bodily autonomy," for "women's reproductive rights," for government non-interference in a woman's body, and for government protecting life. Do you suppose women will campaign against this abortion? The court deemed her mentally deficient -- too deficient to make good choices for a baby -- so the best choice is to kill it. Now, there's a line of reasoning I pray never arrives in our government. "We'll decide what's best for you and your children" and "You might do your child harm, so we'll kill it for you." I am fairly sure it's not really too far off.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Question Authority

It has been an axiom since the 1960's. "Question authority!" In the '60's it was considered avant-garde, cutting edge. Today it's considered normal operating procedure. "Of course you have to question authority." I think, however, that it is unevenly applied.

There is a series on the National Geographic Channel called Brain Games that explores how the human brain works through games and experiments. One of them was on peer pressure and examined the ways in which we are unconsciously controlled by those around us. In one experiment they had a woman go into an office and wait with others for an appointment. While they sat in the waiting room, a bell sounded and the group stood. The woman was not in on it and she was confused. They all sat down. The bell sounded again, they all stood and sat down, and after a few of these repeated rounds, she started standing with them all. After they all left and the bell would sound, she'd still stand and sit. When a new person came in, the bell sounded and she repeated the now-normal process. The new guy didn't. She helpfully told him, "We're supposed to stand." "Why?" "I don't know. We just are." So soon she had him and those who came in later repeating the nonsensical process of standing and sitting every time a bell rang. It was funny to watch. These people succumbed to an authority they didn't even know was there -- peer pressure.

I'm pretty sure that much of what we see today is a product of peer pressure. Should we favor or oppose "gay marriage"? In 2008 the majority of Californians opposed it and a scant few years later a majority favored it without anyone knowing why. (I asked some who favored it and they couldn't tell me anything coherent. Mostly along the lines of "Everyone else does.") Californians are big on questioning authority; just not the authority of social pressure.

So we go along because everyone else is. Gay is good because we're told it is. The news cycle tells us so. The media tells us so. Hollywood adamantly assures us it's so. So ... it must be so. Based on what arguments? For the vast majority of us, none at all. "Well, they say so, so we do, too." Question authority if they're authority in name, but don't question authority if it's just public opinion. Go with that authority blindly and without question.

Going against the flow is never easy. Thinking and choosing for yourself is often not comfortable or simple. But when Scripture tells us "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15), it might behoove us to question that authority -- the authority of the world, of social pressure, of the tide of public opinion. Because it is absolutely natural that the world will be opposed to God (1 John 2:15-17) and that is someplace we certainly must not go.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Bad Arguments

We all do it. We will make bad arguments. First, let me be clear. By "argument" here I don't mean "knock down drag out fight." I mean it the way the lawyers would use it. Two sides with differing ideas present the reasons they hold their position and why they think the other is wrong. Arguments. There are good arguments. And there are bad ones. Bad arguments are an easy, common mistake. It's not necessary and it shows poor thinking, but we still do it. Here are some bad arguments you might want to avoid.

"You are a fill in your favorite pejorative here." Make it a good one, now. I mean, "doofus" can be insulting, but not very biting. Make it something that really sticks like "hater" or "bigot" or the like. Because if you can label the arguer, you can end the argument. Mind you, it's a straight-up logical fallacy. Labeling people negatively (generally without any actual explanation, evidence, or reasoning) doesn't say a thing about the point that was being made. It isn't an argument. It's calling names. It's playground mentality. It is bad argumentation. Labeling someone is an effective technique because associating an opponent with a strong negative ("hater," "anti-choice," "bigot," etc.) shuts down all argument. It stops the discussion but doesn't answer the argument.

"I hate you haters." Maybe not the best example, but it is so easy to pick up but so common these days. People build these self-refuting arguments. "I will not tolerate intolerance." Or a recent example -- Critical Race Theory. The idea, they say, is that the concept of race isn't real and is merely a social construct created by white people to maintain power. Do you see it? Look again. If race is not real, then how can they refer to a particular race as the instigator? It's not real. If you look around and pay attention, you will find this over and over. Avoid denying your own argument in your own argument.

"Christianity teaches that we're supposed to kill gays." I know. I started with "Christianity," so you might think I'm talking about Christianity here. I'm not. The idea is that someone disagrees with X, so they misrepresent X to point out how wrong it is. This, too, is a standard logical fallacy -- the strawman. Hold up a false version of an opponent's argument and then tear it apart. But there is another side to this that is often missed. Often the person making the false argument doesn't know it. They haven't asked a pro-lifer, for instance, why they are pro-life (versus anti-abortion). They haven't asked an adherent of infant baptism why they believe in it. So, not actually knowing the position, they attack a false one ... poorly. Know what you believe and what your opponent believes when you aim to explain what's wrong with it.

"That's just your opinion." I just can't figure this one out. It's very popular. Think, say, of a book. I know ... the book I'd be thinking of is the Bible, but any book will do. I say that War and Peace says "this" which means that and here's why. The stunning retort is, "That's your opinion." What we have here is an identification, not an argument. When I say, "The Bible says this and this means that," "That's your opinion" doesn't explain why either it doesn't say it or it doesn't mean it. "I don't believe the Bible" doesn't either. None of that addresses the argument and, therefore, is not an argument.

"You're a Democrat. That means that you believe fill in your worst nightmare here." It's called "guilty by association." In this case it's a broad-brushed painting without regard to detail ... or facts. That I, for instance, call myself a Christian and the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church calls himself a "Christian" does not mean that the two of us have anything in common except for the name we claim for ourselves. But it is oh, so common to say, "Oh, you're a Christian? Then you must believe that 'God hates fags'." No, I don't. Sorry to disappoint. This kind of generalization doesn't help. Related to the previous point, know what your opponent believes before attacking them for what they don't believe because you've linked them to someone else.

Here's an interesting suggestion.
Remind them ... to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. (Titus 3:1-3)
What does that say about our interactions and arguments? We should avoid maligning anyone. We should be peaceable and gentle (which goes a long way toward making better arguments). If you're a Christian arguing for the faith, remember that we have been what they currently are and show them consideration rather than ire.

And what to do if they persist?
Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)
No fuss, no muss, no anger or malice. Mortal combat is another bad argument technique. We are called to better things.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Most of you know what the title means. I saw the concept first in the movie Up about the old man who moves his house to South America with balloons. He runs into a dog there with a device that allows it to talk and we quickly discover that the dog is easily distracted with "Squirrel!" Dopey dog. So I find it disheartening that we can be so equally dopey by being so easily distracted.

It starts at the shallow level. Character counts, but we get distracted by appearance. Money might be a useful tool for good, but we get distracted by greed. That sort of thing. And to varying amounts. More importantly, we get distracted from the really important.

We were built for a singular reason -- to glorify God. Everything that was made was made for that purpose. Nothing else matters. Everything, directly or indirectly, is aimed at that (Col 1:16-17). And yet, it seems, that everything rises to higher importance to us than that. Even when we know better. We understand that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and then proceed to care little for the glory of God. We are clearly told that we should do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31) and then do as little as possible for the glory of God. If we're normal our primary concern is our own welfare, our own comfort, our own rights, our own pleasures. If we're super spiritual we might consider the welfare, comfort, rights, and pleasures of others. That's really remarkable. But we -- even we Christians -- aren't very concerned for God's concerns. So the best of us want to feed the hungry when what they need is spiritual food and house the homeless when what they need is reconciliation with God. We campaign for better laws when what is needed is new life. We work hard to change from without when what is necessary is to change from within. And we wonder why we seem to make so little headway.

We should do better. We, the redeemed, the new creatures in Christ, we should do better. We should let our lights shine before men in such a way that they would see our good works and glorify the Father (Matt 5:16). We should love our neighbors to the glory of God. We should speak of Christ to the glory of the Father (Php 2:11). We should preach the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:4). If we can avoid being distracted so easily by the cares and notions of the world to keep in mind what is really important, it should order our lives much better. Or ... Squirrel!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


We have a lot of questions in this world these days. There is Trump and there are the Democrats. There are the radical Muslims and the murdering Buddhists. (I know, that one doesn't really make sense in my mind, but they're out there.) There are the crazy people that think they are Napoleon or Alexander the Great or a girl when they were born a guy or a black woman when she has white parents. We have Christians that don't care for God's Word and Christians who don't pray or meet with God's people. We have people that identify as Christians and don't believe in Christ. Go figure. There are gun problems caused by people problems. There are murders and thefts and rapes. There is inequality, injustice, and people who suggest that both of those can be satisfied by further inequality and injustice. I can't begin to figure out how someone can exclude others in the name of inclusion, but it happens ... far more than you'd think. People opposed to judging while they judge others for it. People who are intolerant of the intolerant and hateful of the hateful. It goes on and on. And I'm just scratching the surface.

I don't like it when people complain without a better idea. I don't want to do that. What, then, do I see is the problem? First, what it is not. It is not better gun laws, better economic sanctions, better government. It's not in eliminating the enemy whether that's the right or the left, the Dems or the GOP, Trump or AOC. Racism isn't solved by outlawing it. Prayer meetings don't come about by scheduling them. You don't make a better Christians with better rules or better arguments. You don't make Christians with more coherent defense of the faith. All of these are symptoms. Fixing them won't fix the problem underlying those symptoms.

What is the problem? Sin. Plain and simple. Sin. We don't do what we know God says to do because we're sinners. We argue against what He had written down because we're sinners. We shoot and we kill and we bully and we rob and we steal because we're sinners. We tell lies from the womb because we're sinners. You can't outlaw sinners. You can't make sinners into not-sinners by better arguments or rules. Oversimplification? I don't think so. I think I'm just pointing out the actual underlying problem. As long as we focus on the surface matters, nothing matters because the real problem gets ignored.

Where are you falling short? Repent. Where are you missing the mark? Repent. Who have you harmed? Confess. Is your pile of sin intact, or have you given it to Jesus? If the former, call on the name of Jesus. If the latter, confess and repent. We don't need better rules or government or political parties or how-to books. We need Jesus and the longer we pursue remedies of surface problems and not the relationship with and glory of God, the longer we will paddle around in the cesspool wondering why things still stink around here. Jesus is the answer. Oversimplification? Not at all. Just the Truth (John 14:6).

Monday, June 17, 2019

Come On Into the Deep End of Insanity

The Southern Baptists (SBC) for the longest time were a known conservative bastion of the faith. Of course, any human institution can fail, and by the 1970's the SBC was collapsing into liberal Christianity. But some 30 years ago the organization got a second lease on life. They pushed back, reclaiming the Bible as their sole authority in matters of faith and practice. They grabbed onto the faith "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). They climbed back to theological sanity.

That was 30 years ago. This is now. Over the past decade the SBC has rejected assaults from progressive Christianity in calls for female pastors (1 Tim 2:11-15), gay marriage (Gen 2:24), and the embracing of homosexual behavior as "Christian" (1 Cor 6:9-10). They held their ground. But for how much longer?

They just had their 2019 convention and approved insanity as a formal agreement. Last week they adopted Resolution 9. "What's that," you ask? While still hanging onto Scripture as "the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills," they embraced Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. "These analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences." "Yeah, so?" I can hear you ask. First, Scripture (the one they said was the first, last, and sufficient authority) claims that it is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17). If that covers "every good work," what are they doing?

It only gets worse from there. What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? It argues that race is not biologically grounded and natural, but a social construct built "to maintain the interests of the white population that constructed it." That's right. Now, the truth is that "race" is defined as "a group of persons related by common descent or heredity." But that's not real. No one is in a group of persons related by common descent. Right? Of course they are. So we embrace this theory by disregarding reality and expect it to be a valuable analytical tool. CRT goes on to build on that concept by declaring all white people as racist based on this theory. On the other hand, since no black people are white, they cannot be racist even if they hate white people. In fact, the only ones that can be racist are white people. This is a valuable tool? According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, CRT is based on "nationalist thinkers such as Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and Frantz Fanon."

What does the Bible say? The Bible draws no distinction between races. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). We have no grounds, as Christians, to discriminate on the basis of race, class, or gender. Which is precisely what CRT requires. Discriminate against all whites because they are all at fault.

And Intersectionality?? This is a currently-popular feminist view. It is a "non-empirical qualitative analytic framework that applies deconstructionist critical theory (a literary criticism method) to attempt to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society." Everyone gets analyzed in terms of intersecting discrimination. For instance, women are discriminated against (1). Lesbians are women, and they are discriminated against (2). Black people are discriminated against (3), so a black lesbian would have three intersecting lines of discrimination. Herein is the problem, they say. This concept shapes everything from identity to politics, focusing primarily on 1) the oppressed and 2) the oppressor, which, surprise, surprise, is primarily white males.

What does the Bible say? Oh, we covered that. We have no grounds, as Christians, to discriminate on the basis of race, class, or gender. Which is precisely what Intersectionality requires. Discriminate against all white males because they are all at fault.

None of this excuses people who abuse privilege or abuse others. As it turns out, the Bible is opposed to that, too. But what is the biblical solution to these types of very real problems? Christ. Repentance. Death to self. Or ... we could go with "punish white males" and "make better laws." Which wouldn't exactly coincide with what Scripture says and what the SBC embraced in direct contradiction to what they embraced. You cannot accept as a valuable tool theories that oppose Scripture and say that you are taking Scripture as your basis. You can't take as useful worldviews that oppose a biblical worldview and then lay claim to a biblical worldview. This is not sane. And it is not a direction that will end well for the "woke" SBC.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day, 2019

Father's Day always falls on Sunday. So what are doing about Father's Day on Sunday? Father's Day can be tough. On Mother's Day we take our mom's out to eat; on Father's Day we make our dad's barbecue for everyone. At church on Mother's Day the sermon is typically in praise of mothers; on Father's Day they about how father's need to do a better job. In general there can be a tendency to think of interrupting worship of the Father to thank the fathers. It all seems a bit ... off.

I don't suppose anyone would buy it, but I'd like a Father's Day that would focus on the Father. What could be a better focus on a day named after Him? Well, okay, that's not accurate, but we are so easily distracted from the Father that I'd love to take every opportunity to focus on Him.

Mind you, for me it wouldn't be a problem. I would experience no collision of interests. My father has been a man after God's own heart as long as I've known him ... and I've known him for most of my life. He has been a man who has sought to conform his life to Christ's. I've seen him weep tears of repentance while admitting to his kids that he was in sin in certain areas of life. How many fathers would do that? But Dad's primary concern was to be right with God and, as a consequence, right with those around him. A model of "conformed to the image of Christ."

For me, then, I can begin Father's Day praising the Father and end Father's Day praising the Father and still spend time thanking the Father for my father. Thanking God for the example my father has been. Thanking God for my father's heart to follow Him. Thanking God for my dad's lifelong example of being a loving husband. Thanking the Father for the provision He gave in my father -- provision for living and for spiritual needs and all. God is above and beyond and the father He gave me is above and beyond, a shining reflection of my Father in heaven.

So, happy Father's Day, beginning with the Father and moving on to His gift of the father He gave me and the father He gave you. Designed just for me and you. Dad, I echo Paul's words when I say, "I thank my God in my every remembrance of you" (Php 1:3).

Saturday, June 15, 2019

News Weakly - 6/15/19

I Just Want to Know
When states like Alabama or Louisiana pass laws that will save the lives of children with a heartbeat, it's called "anti-abortion." So I'm just wondering ... when they report that Maine's governor has signed a law expanding abortions, why is it not called "pro-abortion"? Seems like that would be fair and balanced. Oh, yeah, the media isn't fair and balanced.

Conspiracy Theory
Now, I am not a conspiracy theory kind of guy. Lots of people from all walks of life like to trot out their favorite conspiracy theories and I start from a position of skepticism on those. But this one seems to be too blatant. Jack Phillips is the Colorado baker who got in trouble before because he stood on his 1st Amendment right to the free exercise of his religion and suggested that the gay couple who wanted to enlist his artistic skills to celebrate their gay mirage (I didn't mispell that; it's what I believe) use any of the hundreds of other bakers in the area that would be happy to do it. A birthday cake? No problem. A graduation or promotion cake? Jack's your guy. He just wouldn't celebrate a so-called "gay marriage." That is, it wasn't "anti-gay" going on; it was about marriage and the freedom of religion. After losing in court then winning in the Supreme Court, it looked like Jack had squeaked by. So why did Autumn Scardina, a confused Colorado guy who thinks he's a girl, go to Jack to get a cake celebrating his "gender transition"? Random access? You know that's not the case. You know that Christians that raise their hands in these kinds of cases and say, "I'm sorry, but I can't; please feel free to choose another vendor" are now not merely pariahs; they are targets. So you have to ask yourself: when will you run afoul of the issue du jour and become a societal target? The Supreme Court ruled last year that Jack was the victim of "anti-religious bias" and I think it is abundantly clear that 1) they were right and 2) it hasn't stopped.

Applause or Crickets?
You remember Steve King, right? The House member from Iowa who got in trouble for his comments on white supremacists. Unlike the Dems who ignored their side's anti-Semitic comments, the Republicans stripped King of his duties and relegated him to the back corner for his behavior. Well, that was the story. Now it's this President Trump was going to Iowa, so King asked if he could tag along on Air Force One. The president denied him. "Good job, Mr. Trump," right? I mean, he denied access to a "white supremacist" guy. We like that, right? Oh, no. Nothing but crickets. Because if Trump did it, it's bad. "Breaking news! President Trump solved the Global Climate Change problem today." "Oh, no, that evil man!!" It's just the way it goes. I'm no Trump fan, but this just doesn't seem ... equitable.

Problem Solved
For a mere £1 trillion (about $1.3 trillion US) UK's Theresa May pledges zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Understand, first, that "zero" is not actually ZERO, but "net zero." That is, "We'll still be producing greenhouse gases, but they'll be counterbalanced by trees in third world countries." Second, she didn't pledge the trillion; she pledged a trillion of the citizens' money. Finally, you should realize that they're dubious that she can accomplish it for that "little" cost. But that's okay. Problem solved.

Laying Blame
Okay, so, how does this make sense in the new modern paradigm we hold of "Believe the accuser; burn the accused"? The story goes that in 2016 Allyson Gibson (white) of Gibson's Bakery in Ohio confronted an Oberlin College student (black) who shoplifted a bottle of wine. That student and two other black students assaulted Gibson. The three students pleaded guilty, but the bakery filed suit against Oberlin College for slandering them as a "racist establishment" and taking steps to destroy the family's livelihood. A jury, Friday, awarded the Gibsons in total $44 million from the college known for its strict coherence to politically correct (but not always sane) ideas. The court found Oberlin College liable. The court figured that out? I'm not sure how to process that.

Counting the Cost
The Dioceses of Springfield, Illinois, warned Illinois state House Speaker Michael Madigan that defending legislation to kill babies more generously would result in him being barred from taking communion. He knew it, but "With women's rights under attack in an increasing number of states across the country, Illinois is now a leader in making sure women are protected and their rights are upheld." "Let's see," he said, in essence, "a living relationship with the church I am a part of or murdering babies in the name of 'women's rights' ... which will I choose? I'll go with murder." Regardless of how you think about Catholic Communion or Catholicism at all, we have a clear case of a man willfully choosing to defy his religious beliefs to protect secular, anti-religious beliefs. You should have no question regarding his priorities ... and it's not his God.

Missing the Point
It could have been a headline from the U.S., but this one was from Switzerland. Swiss working women went on strike this week to protest the government's resistance to gender equality and equal pay. On what do they base gender equality? Women are "under-represented in management positions." Gender equality would be a numerical equality without regard to skill, ability, value to a company, or the like. On equal pay, the aim is to make it so that women (as a group) will earn dollar for dollar what men (as a group) make without taking into account any other factors than gender. And for gender equality, companies should have equal numbers of men and women in management, etc. Amount of work, hours worked, type of work, skill, training, and so on will all have no bearing because the only reason there are businesses in the world today is to provide equality. (And, I was wondering. The story says that "on the average" women make less than men and are under-represented in management. Would women be as swift to confront women-led companies for under-representing men or complain about situations where women are making more than their male counterparts? I know I wouldn't ask them to.)

Friday, June 14, 2019

Blessed are the Meek

In His famous Beatitudes Jesus included, "Blessed are the meek" (Matt 5:5) and we all nod and move on ... because, seriously, the meek?? They make good targets, perhaps, great doormats, indeed, but we really do not see "meek" as blessed.

What is "meek"? It's gentle, easily imposed on, submissive. It's docile, compliant, spiritless, tame. John Gill describes the meek as those "who are not easily provoked to anger; who patiently bear, and put up with injuries and affronts; carry themselves courteously, and affably to all; have the meanest thoughts of themselves, and the best of others; do not envy the gifts and graces of other men; are willing to be instructed and admonished, by the meanest of the saints; quietly submit to the will of God, in adverse dispensations of providence; and ascribe all they have, and are, to the grace of God." Albert Barnes says, "Meekness is the reception of injuries with a belief that God will vindicate us." Matthew Henry wrote, "The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to God, to His word and to His rod, who follow His directions, and comply with His designs, and are gentle towards all men (Titus 3:2); who can bear provocation without being inflamed by it; are either silent, or return a soft answer; and who can show their displeasure when there is occasion for it, without being transported into any indecencies; who can be cool when others are hot; and in their patience keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of any thing else. They are the meek, who are rarely and hardly provoked, but quickly and easily pacified; and who would rather forgive twenty injuries than revenge one, having the rule of their own spirits."

In biblical language, the concept of "blessed" goes beyond a simple "happy" concept. You find the concept described in the famous blessing of Moses to Aaron.
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. (Num 6:24-26)
The language here makes parallels out of "bless you" and "make His face to shine upon you." Conversely, then, to curse you would be to turn His face from you. When God makes His face to shine upon you, you are kept, He is gracious to you, and He gives you peace. Happy? Sure, but, oh, so much more. So, "Blessed are the meek." Or, "Those who patiently bear up, trusting in God, not elevating themselves, humbly submitting to the will of God, attributing all they have and are to His grace, those people enjoy the presence and grace and peace of God."

Tell me again why we don't much care for meekness?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Great American Lie

The discussion at church recently was about having regular prayer meetings. Some wanted to schedule something like a monthly prayer meeting. Other voices were skeptical. No, they weren't opposed to prayer or prayer meetings. They just didn't think it would fly. Eventually people wouldn't show up.

There are, of course, two possibilities here. Either the second group is right or they are wrong. (Takes a super-genius to figure that out, right?) It could be that the naysayers are wrong and we can just move on and have those prayer meetings. Or, hey, maybe they're so wrong that we can have prayer meetings more often, can't we? I know. How about once a week? Say, on Wednesdays?

Of course, my point is that, given the disappearance of the staple "Wednesday night prayer meeting" in so many churches, I think there might be some support for the argument that people wouldn't show up. But, why?

Trump's campaign (I'm not changing the subject ... bear with me) was supposedly built on the "Make America great again" theme. True or false, right or wrong, the idea behind "again" was/is that America has been a great nation. Most Americans (although I suspect fewer today than in bygone days) and a lot of other-than-Americans would agree. Built on principles of liberty and equality, our founding fathers formed a unique entity that thrived for a long time. Most would agree that it is not as great as it once was, but we think it was pretty keen at one point.

It is my opinion, then, that, devoid of the religious principles that underwrote it, these principles have circled around to strangle us, especially those of us who are Christians in America. Americans value independence. We respect that guy standing alone against all odds. We like the Lone Ranger. Independent. Free.

So church attendance falls and even where attendance remains the frequency declines. Sunday night worship? "No thanks. Too much." Wednesday night prayer? "Do you have any idea of how busy we are?" Sunday worship? "We'll try to make it ... when we can." We figure we've got this. We love God, right? So that's covered. And we pretty much have everything else covered. We have our income and our homes and our cars and our own skills and abilities. We've pretty well got it in hand. If we need any help, maybe we'll call on God, but otherwise it's a lot of lip service.

I am, of course, oversimplifying the problem. We are praying and going to church less for more than just American independence and self-confidence. But we are at least there. We think we've got this, so we aren't connecting with other believers as much despite the many "one anothers" of Scripture. We've got this, so we don't need to pray nearly as much despite the repeated commands to do that often and repeatedly. And we cut ourselves off from God and His people. And can't figure out why our Christian walk gets so stale.

I think America has had greatness. But when churches stop praying and Christians stop gathering -- when America ceases to be good -- America ceases to be great. In order to make America great again, we need believers on their knees together. The sad fact that Christians are relatively sure that prayer meetings will be poorly attended and we don't really need a Sunday night service anymore is stark evidence that America has bought the lie -- we don't really need God; we can make it on our own -- and the church has bought it, too.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Is That Just?

I'm trying to figure out how to think through the "normal" line of thinking regarding the Atonement. If you ask most Christians, they would assure you that Jesus's death atoned for all the sins of all people for all time. Ask the Internet and you'll find that the single most common answer to "Did Jesus die for all sin?" is "Yes, His death paid for all sin for all people for all time." And you can understand why. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The author of Hebrews said, "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb 10:10). Paul wrote that Christ "gave Himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim 2:6). What's hard to understand?

Well, of course, there is a collision that occurs here. No one can doubt that the Bible is full of Hell and wrath. Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven. The Scriptures are full of warnings about avoiding eternal damnation. Jesus said, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matt 7:13-14). Sounds bad for the home team, so to speak. But if all sin is paid for, how does this kind of thing make sense? It is this dichotomy that drove the likes of Rob Bell and others to discard the notion of Hell and embrace universalism. If all sin is covered, then all people go to heaven. Good news! Except it doesn't match the bad news. "Those who find it are few."

The standard answer goes something like this: "Jesus paid for all sin, but if you don't accept Him, your sin isn't covered." So Jesus actually paid for all sin, but your refusal to accept that payment nullifies it. The popular illustration I've heard is the guy rightly convicted of a capital crime sitting on death row. The warden shows up, opens wide the cell door, and says, "Good news! The governor has pardoned you. You're a free man!" The man refuses to move. He refuses to accept the pardon. He doesn't believe it. So, he remains in jail. Okay, that all seems well and good. Except there's a problem. We have an innocent man in jail. The fact that he doesn't accept the pardon doesn't eliminate the pardon and the fact that the warden keeps this man in prison simply because the man wants it is not a matter of justice. If the warden carried out the original sentence and executed the man because he refused the pardon, it would not be justice; it would be murder.

In the end we run into this problem. We can agree that, for those who believe, Christ has paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future. But if Christ died for all the sins of all people for all time -- "paid in full" is what He said on the cross -- and anyone ends up paying for their own sins in the end, is that just? Is that right? If there is one thing we know, it's that the Judge of all the Earth will do what is right, so we have a dilemma. Either God will hold people accountable for sins already paid in full, or Christ did not pay for all sins for all people for all time. In one case, we have injustice. In the other we'll have to figure out how to read passages that seem to say that all sin of all people is paid for but actually is not. One way or another, we have some work to do, don't we? (I'm just trying to make you think.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Reductio Ad Absurdum

First, that title. It is a method of proving the falsity of a premise by showing that following the premise to its logical conclusion is absurd. Paul used it in his letter to the church at Corinth when he addressed the premise that some had that there was no resurrection of the dead.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:12-19)
Classic reductio ad absurdum. That is, "Okay, so you see where we end up if we follow your thinking down to its logical conclusions? Can you see, now, that it's nonsense?"

This type of argument, of course, is lost on our world today.

"You know, if a biological male believes he is a female, then he is and we should refer to him with female pronouns and respect his ... oh, sorry ... her wishes to be considered female." So, you're okay with a big, hairy guy walking into your daughter's locker room while the girls are showering and changing on the basis of his "belief" that he's actually a girl? Based on this line of reasoning, why is Rachel Dolezal not the black woman she claimed to be? If this kind of reasoning is what we're going with on what possible basis can we exclude the 52-year-old man who left his wife and kids to live as a 6-year-old girl, a little sister to her adoptive parents' 8-year-old daughter? (And note the inconsistencies even there. He identifies as a 6-year-old but drives a car and works.) Reductio ad absurdum. If you follow the argument to its logical conclusion, it is unavoidable that men can be women, whites can be blacks, old people can be young people, and anyone at all must be recognized as whatever they think they are.

"We are redefining marriage to include two people of the same sex." Well, there's a premise that most of us have bought. But why is this a rational position? First, "two" is an arbitrary number to take. On what do we base that restriction of "only two"? There is nothing in the definition that requires it. There are certainly lots of cultures around the world that don't require it. We must not make it a matter of religion, but there are lots of religions that allow for it. Why only two? Well, then, clearly there should be polygamy. Hey, hang on a minute. If we're going to allow a guy to marry two or three women, why not a woman marrying two or three guys? Oh, hold it. We've already eliminated the "opposite sex" restriction, so why not allow three guys and two girls to marry? What possible basis would there be in restricting this since we've already redefined marriage to "either sex"? But it doesn't stop there. We've cut loose the traditional definition of one man and one woman for purposes of mutual support and for procreation, so on what basis do we limit it ... at all? Oh, well, perhaps we shouldn't allow kids to marry. That's an outrage, isn't it? Or is it? And incest is out for health reasons, right? Except what about if two brothers wanted to marry? They're not going to reproduce, so that is no longer a factor. Why not? There have been more than a few people who have sought to marry inanimate objects or even themselves. On what basis do we restrict it to people marrying people or "two" at all? These are simply the logical conclusions you'd have to come to based on the original premise of arbitrarily redefining marriage. So the redefiners staunchly stand their ground while arbitrarily denying "marriage equality" to all those other people who want what they got but don't fall into their narrow definition of "two and only two." How is that fair?

There is, of course, at the bottom of this discussion a primary error that I'm making. It is the idea that these types of positions need to be rational. It is the idea that they should be logical, make sense, or have some basis in fact. The simple truth is that when we're discussing issues of sex -- sexual orientation, gender dysphoria, who I want to have sex with or what I want to do once I have had sex, that kind of thing -- and the like, facts and logic have nothing to do with it. Get over it. There are times when the heart has to decide what's right without permission from the head, right? Good luck with that. Reductio ad absurdum just might come back to bite you. It hasn't stopped them yet. So all I'm asking, dear readers, is that you do the hard job of thinking rationally and reasonably, following the facts without being swayed by pure emotion to the absurd.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Who says?

The debate rages on. Loud voices demand that women be able to do with their bodies whatever they want. "Bodily autonomy." Others say, "Hang on, a minute. We don't want to prevent you from making choices about your body; we're just concerned about you terminating someone else's." "That's not a person!" is generally the reply. Personhood is an odd beast; it is undefined. So in today's world in order to maintain the "logic" of killing the unborn children, they've manufactured the "non-person human being." It is, by any standard, arbitrary. Ask any scientist, any biologist, and the answer you get will vary if you get one at all. Some argue that personhood begins at conception. Some argue that it begins at the exit from the birth canal. There are other voices that argue all the way out to 3 years old or so, depending on when they become "self-aware" (which, as you can imagine, has no real test). Fine. I'm not here to solve that question. But the complaint continues, "You're just trying to impose your religious beliefs on us!!" And this just isn't true.

Here's what is true. The individual life of the species we will call "human being" begins at fertilization and ends at death. That's science. That's not religion. Who says? Well, this textbook, for one:
Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.

It was soon realized that the zygote contains all the genetic information necessary for directing the development of a new human being.

(Keith Moore, T. V. N. Persaud, and Mark Torchia, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 10th Edition, (Philadelphia: Saunders, 2015), pgs 7, 11.)
How about the medical embryology manual?
Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.

(T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 14th Edition, (Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2018), pg 14.)
This textbook specifies that religious and personal views are out there, but science is not ambiguous:
Embryology is concerned with the origin and development of a human being from zygote to birth.

There are different opinions of when an embryo becomes a human being because opinions are often affected by religious and personal views. The scientific answer is that the embryo is a human being from the time of fertilization because of its human chromosomal constitution. The zygote is the beginning of a developing human.

(Keith L. Moore, T. V. N. Persaud, and Mark Torchia, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology, 9th Edition, (Philadelphia: Saunders, 2015), pgs 1, 339.)
How about one from Peter Singer? You know, Peter Singer who believes that personhood doesn't occur until self-awareness occurs and children up to the age of 3 should be allowed to be killed. This might be what is termed "evidence from a hostile witness."
It is possible to give "human being" a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to "member of the species Homo sapiens". Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence, an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.

(Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd Edition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pgs 85-86.)
Who says that what's in the womb is a human being? Science does. We can debate until we're blue in the face when personhood occurs. There is no test for that. Science, however, is quite clear. Human life begins at fertilization and ends at death. Science, not religion. And do we need my religion to tell you that it's morally wrong to murder a 4-year-old? I don't think so. In the end, then, this question has nothing at all to do with either personhood or religion. My religion most assuredly causes me to place a higher value on human life than others might, but I don't need you to share that value. This is about science and the shared value that human beings deserve protection from murder. Anything else is a dodge. And if the argument can be maintained that some human beings don't have the right to life, then it cannot be maintained with anything other than arbitrary opinion that anyone has that right. You don't want to go there.

Sunday, June 09, 2019


Paul wrote a letter to Timothy to tell him how to handle the church at Ephesus. The primary problem was false teachers, but the real problem was the pagan culture. Much like our own, the church at Ephesus was surrounded by pagan beliefs. How were they to handle that problem?

So Paul wrote:
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people (1 Tim 2:1)
Want to know what to do about America, its sin, its moral decay, its evil politics, its murdering babies, its discarding of Christ, and on and on? Pray. Pray big time. Pray a lot. Pray continually. Pray supplications for averting of evil and prayers for obtaining good from God and intercessions on behalf of others and thanksgivings for mercies received. Pray. Pray for those in authority (1 Tim 2:2). Even Trump. Pray for the salvation of others (1 Tim 2:3-6). Even Trump. Even Pelosi. Even AOC. (Wouldn't it be better to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44) than fight and fume over them?)

He goes on to say:
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling (1 Tim 2:8)
That's interesting. "Lifting holy hands." What's that all about? In Isaiah God told Israel, "My soul hates your new moons and your appointed feasts. They are a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them. And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you. Yea, when you multiply prayer, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood." (Isa 1:14-15) Yikes! These people were praying and feasting and doing "good things." God wasn't interested. Why? "Your hands are full of blood." So Paul tells us to pray lifting holy hands. When we pray, we need to have our hands clean, so to speak. And when we pray, we need to do so without anger or fighting. Seriously, that seems to be a problem for us.

Jesus said, "My house shall be a house of prayer" (Luke 19:46) and gave multiple exhortations to pray (Luke 18:1). Paul said to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). In the midst of telling the Ephesians about spiritual warfare he wrote that they should be "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints" (Eph 6:18). Why is it, then, that most churches have given up on prayer meetings? Why is it so hard to get Christians to pray? Why do I struggle with praying continually and consistently? Because prayer is a primary weapon, a fundamental power, an underlying tool God has given to accomplish what He wants to accomplish and Satan wants us to stop that. Don't let him.


Saturday, June 08, 2019

News Weakly - 6/8/19

For Kings and All the Ones in High Position
Last week President Trump made a surprise visit in the wake of the Virginia Beach mass shooting to McLean Bible Church. Watch Pastor David Platt put 1 Tim 2:1-2 into practice. You can also see what the pastor had to say about it. (It makes me wonder why he felt he needed to explain to his church that praying for people as Scripture commands shouldn't be an offense.) The subsequent criticism leveled against a pastor who from all appearances went against his own political leanings to obey the Word and pray is disheartening to me. Since when did praying for someone (especially in the thoroughly biblical and Bible-soaked way he did) become an endorsement of the one prayed for or an insult to those listening? "He shouldn't have let him on the platform" makes no sense unless the rule is that no one may be prayed for on the platform (which makes no sense). Are Christians losing their sense of why we're here? Because praying for the president is in the Bible and when obeying the Word is an offense to Christians, I have to wonder what's wrong with Christians.

He Who is not For me is Against Me
Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney told the California Democratic Party convention that he favored universal healthcare but thought that "Medicare-for-all" was the wrong way to achieve it. His fellow Democrats applauded the idea even if it wasn't their own. Oh, wait ... no. They booed, and the ever-lovin' AOC told him to "please sashay away." What kind of crack is that? (FYI, "sashay" is a typically female walk with exaggerated hip and shoulder movement. What is she saying to her fellow male Dem?) Delaney tweeted, "Intolerance to alternative points of view is not what the Democratic Party should be about." I'll refrain from further comment.

And You Want Me to Make Science My God
We've been told to avoid coffee or that one or two (at the most) cups a day is tolerable. Now they tell us that "up to 25 cups of coffee a day is safe for heart health." Okay, clear as mud.

Raise Worthy?
The Los Angeles Times reported, "Democrats shunned a White House veto threat and muscled legislation through the House on Tuesday that would bestow a chance for citizenship on an estimated 2 million-plus migrants, a bill that stands virtually no chance of enactment but lets them showcase their efforts on one of their highest-profile priorities." They went on to say, "The bill passed on a near party-line 237-187 vote as supporters in the House visitors' galleries roared, 'Yes we can!'" It won't actually get to the president's desk, of course, because it has to survive a visit to the Republican-held Senate and it's not getting past that. All this to say that the proposal to raise Congress's pay seems unwarranted, given that this Congress (like too many before it) seems to accomplish nearly nothing.

A Bridge Too Far?
I'm in favor of justice and I'm opposed to child sex crimes, but I'm just wondering. Is this a bit over the top? Alabama's state legislature passed a bill that would require anyone convicted of child sex crimes to undergo chemical castration. And, oh, by the way, they'd make the offender pay for it. Seems like "child sex crimes" is a broad term and "chemical castration" may not be appropriate in all cases. (For instance, is it only men who commit child sex crimes?)

Different Fundamentals
Tim Jones was found guilty in South Carolina this week of murdering his five children back in 2014. The jury ruled he was guilty and not mentally ill. He admitted to the crime of strangling four of them to "send them to heaven where they could be together." The thing about the story that offends me (apart from the fact that a father would kill his five children and think it was a good thing) is the description of him in the story as "a fanatical Christian fundamentalist." I would like to point out that killing one's family cannot be classified as Christian and for him to be a "fundamentalist" Christian would require a radically different set of fundamentals than, say, Christianity in general or the Bible in particular. You cannot characterize someone who violates multiple biblical commands as either "fundamentalist" or "Christian" and have those words actually mean anything. If a Muslim follows his Scriptures to the letter, he is a "fundamentalist" and would certainly need to do things like "kill the infidel." If a Christian follows his Scriptures to the letter, he, too, is a "fundamentalist," but those Scriptures require "love your neighbor" and "take up your cross," not "Kill your children."

Barks Like a Duck
"Twenty-three gay couples have held an unofficial mass wedding in Tel Aviv" to protest their country's definition of marriage. "'Struggle is not only about demonstrations and protests,' organisers said in a statement. 'It is also about loving the one we want, the way we want.'" That is, indeed, the point, isn't it? "We will define what we wish to define how we wish to define it -- 'gay,' 'marriage,' 'love,' etc. -- and predicate it solely on what we want." The statement went on to say, "To love is not against the law." True, as long as you don't define "love" as "murder" ... you know, like Tim Jones in the last story. Look, protest all you want in favor of love and marriage; just don't require that everyone redefine it to suit your tastes. Of course, this is a lost cause on my part, isn't it? The damage is already done. The "marriage" that barks like a duck is in some sense real in people's minds now.

Lead Us Not Into Mistranslation
Pope Francis figured it out when no one else could. Recently the pope approved a revision to the Lord's Prayer. Believers and unbelievers alike can probably quote that prayer, so we all know the line, "And lead us not into temptation." Well, Mr. Pope says that is wrong, wrong, wrong. It should read, "Do not let us fall into temptation." His thinking? The original implies that God can lead followers into temptation. Now, the text of Jesus's prayer isn't ambiguous and the translations for all of history have concurred, so I'm pretty sure Jesus is delighted that Francis came along to save His bacon. "It's Satan who leads us into temptation," the pope said back in 2017. Never mind James 1:14, I guess, or the fact that the term "temptation" in the New Testament can mean "enticement to evil" or a trial that tests us. Never mind that if God allows temptation He is still involved. And we certainly don't want to look at other Scriptures like when "a harmful spirit from the Lord" tormented Saul (1 Sam 16:13) or the prophet Micaiah told Ahab that "the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all your prophets" (1 Kings 22:23). When we revise Scripture because we don't like what it says, it used to be called "liberalism." Now it's Catholicism?

And You Will LIKE It
Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren wants your money. Oh, not personally. She wants you to pay for murder. Yep. She thinks it is the job of the federal government to use your money to pay for killing the most vulnerable human beings. This is the kind of leadership America needs. "We'll kill 'em all and we'll make you pay for it and you will like it!" Or else?

When they kill 3,000 babies a day on your dime, who won't they kill?

(By the way, 1 day after affirming his position that you shouldn't have to pay for mothers to murder their babies, Joe Biden threw taxpayers and children under the bus. Killing babies is "the healthcare women need.")

A Study in Contrast
A Massachusetts state trooper is a hero after rescuing a fawn from the highway. He took it from the left lane and returned it to the woods so it could reunite with its mother.

Spike Lee has called for Hollywood to withdraw all work in Georgia because Georgia supports children with a heartbeat. Lee called for Hollywood to "shut it down."

Save the baby deer; kill the baby humans. And isn't it ironic that Hollywood, long recognized for its "casting couch," it's "Harvey Weinstein" mentality, and it's "anything goes" morality has something to say about the morality of stopping the beating heart of a child?

In the meantime, Moloch says he may rethink his presence in Georgia if this anti-abortion bill goes into effect. Says so right here on the Internet.