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Friday, October 31, 2014

Bad News Must Precede Good News

A short time ago a commenter on this blog offered the suggestion that there are two views of the purpose of Christianity. One is "a field hospital caring for wounded souls" and the other is "a firewall against the moral corruption of the age." I suggested that I subscribed to neither. I don't believe the problem is "wounded souls", but spiritually dead people in need of new life. And I don't call attention to sin to be "a firewall", but to point out the problem.

Recently I saw a news item on Heaven and Hell. In the CBS story, two thirds of Americans believe in both heaven and hell. Higher than I would have thought. Then, the kicker. Two percent believe they're going to hell.

You see, that is why I point to sin. Someone somewhere is not doing their job. Jesus Himself warned, "The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it." (Matt 7:13), and yet, the current perspective is "2% is 'many'." The Bible tells us, "Jews and Greeks are all under sin" (Rom 3:4), and yet very few think it's a problem. Paul wrote, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23) followed by "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23), and 98% of Americans are pretty sure that's not a problem. Putting it in the terms of the commenter, it would appear that there are very few wounded souls and, in fact, the "moral corruption of the age" is pretty much moot. Someone somewhere is not doing their job.

Where do we fall down on this job? There are actually several possibilities.

Satan in the Garden asked Eve, "Did God say ...?" That was the first assault and that continues to be the current favorite. Don't trust the Bible. Don't claim to know. Don't stand on "God said". And by no means go to that whole, stupid notion that God could possibly intend, superintend, and accomplish the writing of an inerrant, infallible text that can be read and understood today with the help of the Holy Spirit. Nonsense. Don't go there. "Did God say ...?" No! So we embrace a fallible, faulty "Word of God" and carefully explain that it has a lot of errors, myth, legend, and outdated material where they were largely wrong and we know much better now. You know, like that whole "sin" and "hell" thing.

The next problem in the same line is the whole "rightly dividing the Word of truth" dilemma. We trip over the King James's "dividing" and think we're supposed to cut up the Bible "rightly". No, that's not it. It's not "dividing" as much as "handling". So let's handle the Word correctly. "Oh, no," they'll assure you, "there is no 'right way'." Or they'll say, "Read it the way Jesus read it" by which they mean, "There is really no right way; go with your gut." And, building on that previous "Did God say ...?" problem, they're pretty sure that even if you could "rightly handle the Word of truth", it would change with the times. So, there's that.

One of the really big errors is what I term the "Rodney King error"--"Can't we all just get along?" Like that whole "Jesus is the only way" thing. That is way too confrontational. Let's not go there, okay? And the day of the "fire and brimstone" preacher is long gone. Jonathan Edwards's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is simply no longer acceptable. Let's tell 'em that God loves them all and by no means edge out this "hell" concept. It is, after all, the most offensive issue, isn't it? I mean, we're pushing a friendly God and warning about hell? How does that make sense? No, no, we need to get along. We need to be liked. We need to avoid any unnecessary conflict. And by no means should we offend the current, progressive, wiser modern sensibilities. So let's just tone down that whole "hell is for sinners" thing.

And, of course, that's not really that difficult because we have also toned down the whole "sin" thing. We're all about grace and mercy, not sin. We aren't supposed to make the world a better place; we're just supposed to tend to hurting people. The Bible is not a rule book; it's all about grace. (Interesting how it seems to keep coming back to "Did God say ...?)

In fact, isn't it entirely possible that the old "Gospel" thing of "repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand" is too ... overbearing? Maybe there's a better gospel. Why not stick with the "Jesus loves everybody" and "Neither do I condemn you" and a more universal-salvation kind of message? Surely that will play much better.

So we ignore Jesus's words warning about eternal torment and ignore God's constant explanations about what displeases Him ("That's Old Testament, man. Come into the 21st century!"). We mix the message and suggest that Christianity is, after all, just another "let's be nice" religion that tells people to be moral rather than confront them with their sin and the constituent hopelessness without Christ. We seek God on our own terms, offer a different gospel, ignore "all that I have commanded you" let alone the need to obey it (Matt 28:19-20). We try to entice people with good news and remove any bad news that would make the good news good.

When we arrive at the place that 2 out of 3 Americans have heard about heaven and hell and say they believe in it, but only 2% think hell is any threat to them, we in the church are falling down on the job. It is our job to sound the warning, to get out the Gospel. Remember that the first message Jesus took to His world was "repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15). We don't improve on His message by questioning the validity of Scripture, wrongly dicing up the Word of truth, or seeking to become friends with a world that Jesus said would hate us and our message instead of telling them the whole truth. "Another gospel" Paul classified as no gospel at all and a distortion (Gal 1:6-7). The bad news about sin and hell precedes the good news about salvation by faith in Christ (not salvation by being good). If we skip it, we've skipped the message. And from the statistics, we're skipping the message. That's not being good and faithful servants. That's a failure to deliver the message we were sent to deliver.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

2nd Corinthians Giving

I never noticed this before.

In Paul's second epistle to the church at Corinth he writes in the 8th chapter encouraging them to continue their work of putting together a care package for the saints in Jerusalem. The way he does this is to give them a positive example. So he tells this relatively rich church about what was happening in the poor church he was visiting in Macedonia.
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. (2 Cor 8:1-5)
I've noticed in the past that they gave from "their deep poverty" "the wealth of their liberality", an interesting enigma. This church was dirt poor and Paul noticed their wealth of generosity. Indeed, there is an entire formula here that makes little natural sense. Notice the three ingredients that produced "the wealth of their liberality": 1) "great ordeal of affliction", 2) "abundance of joy", and 3) "deep poverty". Only one of those makes any sense to us. Sure, you give out of joy, but the other two? And yet, this was what produced remarkable giving. Indeed, Paul says they begged him to let them participate. Imagine that! It would be like us getting a care package from a village church in Uganda or something. "Please, please, let us participate!" So he did.

Notice, however, that there are two other sources listed on this amazing generosity. These are the two I missed in the past. First, there was "the grace of God" (2 Cor 8:1). That is, God's grace produced this kind of liberality. But notice the second. You might have missed it because Paul tells us about it after he tells us about their liberality. "They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God." (2 Cor 8:5). See that? "First". What "first"? They gave themselves to the Lord. Ah, now, see? It starts to make sense.

Here we have the secret. They affirmed to themselves that they belonged to God. "This house? His. This arm? His! This wife? She also belongs to Him." Understanding and confirming that all that I have and am belong to Him makes giving it away much, much easier. Indeed, it is the only way in which they could give "beyond their ability."

American Christians don't suffer from "deep poverty". Most don't have a problem with "a great ordeal of affliction". And, I suspect, most aren't particularly known for their "abundance of joy", either. Could it be that we are singularly lacking in first giving ourselves to God? I fear that it's a real possibility.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


"You're anti-gay."

Such a simple sentence. Clear. Concise. Easy to understand. But, of course, not for me.

Look, here's how my mind works. "You're." Define that term. To whom are you addressing that "you"? Is it me, an individual, or is "you" a plural, a reference to a particular group or thought? "Anti-gay." This one is worse. You're going to have to define for me both "anti" and "gay". I'm supposing off the top that by "gay" you do not mean "festive" or "happy", so you are most likely referring to something else. I am going to assume it is something to do with homosexuality. But what does the term mean when you use it? Are you referring to same-sex sexual attraction? Are you referring to an assumed genetic or birth condition that makes one that way? Perhaps you're referencing an entire lifestyle predicated on this condition? Or are you referring to particular activities associated with this same-sex attraction? Or something else? And in what sense to you mean "anti"? I mean, I understand you think I am opposed in some sense to whatever you mean by "gay", but in what sense? It could run the gamut from "You think it's immoral" to "You want to eliminate it and anyone who has it" (whatever it--"gay"--is) to "You hate those who are (whatever that is)". What is "anti" to you?

And now I'm mired in a complete incomprehension of what appeared to be a simple sentence.

You see, it gets really complicated here. I believe that the behaviors associated with people who have same-sex sexual attraction are classified by God as sin. Not the attraction; the behaviors. And I'm opposed to sin. But I believe that if I steal a pen from work that it's classified by God as sin. I'm opposed to sin. So I am opposed to homosexual behavior and I am opposed to my own theft of a pen. Am I "anti-taker-of-pens"? And when I say I oppose sin, I do not mean "I wish to banish it and go on the road to eliminate all the evil beings that indulge in it." In my mind, if God says, "Don't" and you do, it won't go well for you. I want things to go well for you. So I would encourage you to avoid doing what He says not to do and to certainly do what He says to do. That's my "opposition". I'm opposed to having bad things happen to you, especially if it's something you chose to do that you didn't need to choose to do. Further, the fact is that everyone does things which violate God's standards. This violation has horrible consequences (read "Hell"). If you don't know that you're violating God's standards, you won't know that you are in jeopardy and need a remedy. And I know the remedy. Thus, if I point out that you're violating God's standards, perhaps the fact that I know the remedy will be a good thing to you. (Note: the remedy is not "Be good." Reform is not the answer.) So is that "anti"? Is it "anti" to want the best for someone else? Is it "anti" to point to a problem with a solution in hand?

I know. I talk a lot about the problem with language. I know that I see these days as a modern Tower of Babel where one language is being confused into many. I know. But perhaps now you can see how a simple, apparently obvious sentence can trip up an entire understanding and why it is an issue for me. Because if we are two people separated by a common language, we just won't be able to communicate very well. And what I hope to communicate is something good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


A sometimes interesting website is "wikihow", a user-driven site to tell you how ... to do just about anything. I say "sometimes" because sometimes you'll come across something like this article about how to argue that God does not exist. Ummm, yeah. Because the article itself begins with "it should be noted that while proving nonexistence is a logical impossibility" and goes from there.

In the article they use the term "fideism" and define it as "by faith". Fideism is actually defined as an "exclusive or basic reliance upon faith alone, accompanied by a consequent disparagement of reason." That is, the definition of fideism goes beyond "faith" to necessarily include "faith is the enemy of reason". Thus, it includes faith and excludes reason ... which is not the same thing as believing something "by faith". For instance, Hebrews 11 is known as "the faith chapter". The word used there for "faith" is πίστις--pistis. Strong's dictionary defines this term as "persuasion" and roots it in πείθω--peithō--"to convince (by argument)". Obviously "by argument" specifically denies "apart from reason". To be "persuaded" requires causing someone to do or believe something through reasoning or argument. Thayer's definition is "to persuade, i.e., to induce one by words to believe." Thus, biblical "faith" does not preclude reason and, in fact, includes it. Remember, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." (Rom 10:17). Jesus made the point to His skeptics, "You have seen Me and yet do not believe" (John 6:64), alluding to the host of signs performed as evidence which did not move them. He told them "... even though you do not believe Me, believe the works ..." by way of offering reasons that they should place their faith in Him.

The wikihow article says, "The mortal enemy of faith is knowledge." And they offer the standard definition--the Archie Bunker definition--of faith:
You must believe something someone else tells you is true, even though your mind tells you it is a lie and it makes no sense.
This they define as "fideism". "Without fideism," they go on to say, "the concept of religion would not exist."

I would hope that you've already seen that the Bible denies this. Biblical faith is not fideism. Biblical faith includes reason and evidence. Biblical faith is not opposed to knowledge or thinking. Jesus understood and commended reasoning. Indeed, Paul urges the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2).

Of course, now I'm going to have to explain further these recent posts where I appear to actually endorse fideism ... because I don't.

Earlier I pointed to a news item (which, as it turned out, was demonstrated as a hoax) and argued, "I have placed my confidence in my Savior, not in the evidence that argues for (or against) Him." Just a couple of days later I wrote about Jesus's blessing on "they who did not see, and yet believed." There, now, see? I'm opposed to evidence and reason, right?

No. I'm in favor of "faith and". You see, I understand biblical faith as being persuaded. I'm just not entirely sure that the sole source for this persuasion must be material science or philosophical rhetoric. I believe that supernatural persuasion must occur. I wrote,
There is a large thrust lately to produce evidence and argument for Christ. And that's all well and good. I'm not opposed. You know, be "ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15), "Contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3), that sort of thing. All good.
See that? "All good." I'm in favor of contending for the faith, for making a defense. I like Apologetics. But I believe that being persuaded to faith in Christ occurs apart from purely rational, human-sourced arguments and that, once that persuasion occurs, one can begin to see the rest of the logic, the reason, the evidence, and the arguments that fall into place. Okay, so I argue that faith does not rest on reason, but on Christ. So how is that not fideism? Because fideism requires opposition to reason, and I suggest that reason can support faith. I'm just not counting on human-sourced, materialist methods irreconcilably separated from the supernatural[1] and philosophically opposed to God (Rom 8:7) (compare 1 Cor 2:14) as the best source for good reasons to believe, especially with the heart problem (Jer 17:9) humans have.
[1] Understand that trying to measure the supernatural with natural methods is nonsensical. You can't, for instance, hold a microphone up to the light and expect to hear the light. You can't connect a voltmeter to your piano and expect to measure middle C. The measuring device must match that which is being measured. The natural cannot measure the supernatural.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Train up a Husband

Solomon wrote, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Prov 22:6). I wonder if that's true for husbands, too. Because, wives, you are indeed training your husband. To what?

In the Bible God makes some really difficult commands for husbands. Husbands are commanded to love their wives in all circumstances (Eph 5:25). Husbands are supposed to cleanse her by the washing of the water of the word (Eph 5:26). Husbands are required to be ready to answer any question she might have (1 Cor 14:35). Husbands are required to surrender their bodies to their wives, particularly in the area of sex (1 Cor 7:4). Husbands are supposed to be the head of the house under Christ (1 Cor 11:3). Husbands are supposed to care for their wives, nourishing and cherishing her as they do their own bodies (Eph 5:29). Get this. Husbands are supposed to understand their wives (1 Peter 3:7). Did you know that wives are not commanded to understand their husbands? Beyond that, God holds fathers responsible for the training and discipline of the children (Eph 6:4). Guys have huge commands from God. They are commanded to be the image of Christ in the home with all that entails.

Wives, what are you training them to be? God warned at the start that there would be a power struggle in the home as part of the curse. He told Eve, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." (Gen 3:16). Lest you miss that "desire" comment, look at the next time it's used in the next chapter. God warned Cain, "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Gen 4:7). See? That's not, "Wives will desire their husbands." That's a desire to master. And that's what we see in most homes.

It is possible, wives, to train up your husband in the way he should go. Not only is it possible, it is the aim. Wives are designed by God as the "helpmeet" (Gen 2:18), and helping him to be the man God intends is right and profitable. In fact, all wives train their husbands. They reinforce error or combat it. They encourage godly behavior or discourage it. They cooperate or contend. Whether a wife will train her husband or not is not a question. How she does it and what she trains him to is the question. So how can a wife train up her husband to achieve obedience to God's commands for husbands?

If husbands are commanded to be the head of the household, an excellent way to train them to fulfill that role is to "be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord." (Eph 5:22). Stand firmly and boldly to submitting to your husband "even if any of them are disobedient to the word" (1 Peter 3:1). You see, nature abhors a vacuum. If a wife steps out of the driver's seat of the marriage and respectfully gives it to her husband, he is bound to step up to that God-given role. Continually rip it out from under him, and don't expect him to stay there long without a fight. Paul commanded wives to be subject to their husbands as the church is subject to Christ (Eph 5:24). That is not a small submission.

If husbands are commanded to love sacrificially, wives can encourage this by showing respect (Eph 5:33; 1 Peter 3:2). You know, it's interesting. The word used both in Ephesians and the 1st Peter passage is the same. It is the Greek word, φόβος. Phobos isn't quite simple respect. It is respect with fear. Well, it is actually most literally translated "fear". But if you fear something, you will show it respect. So the idea is not a casual "positive feeling of esteem" or "admiration", but that and more. It includes a recognition of authority[1] and a sense of awe[2] A husband respected by a wife will find it much easier and much more valuable to love her sacrificially. A husband defied and disrespected by his wife may decide the sacrifice is too great.

If a husband is commanded to cherish and nourish his wife, it would be good if he had the opportunity to do so. So a wife that comes to him with questions (1 Cor 14:35) will train him to feed her. If he is commanded to cleanse her with the washing of the water of the word, a wife that asks her husband to teach her from the word will find he is more able to do that. If a husband is going to cherish and nourish his wife, he will find it much easier to do if she has "the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4). By requesting and expecting this cherishing and nourishment, wives can train their husbands to do it.

Considered perhaps the most impossible of all commands given to husbands, husbands are commanded to understand their wives. I suppose I could come up with some wise words or careful turns of a verse to get you to see this one, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't take a theologian or a trained psychologist to see that a wife that shares herself with her husband in a gentle and respectful way, openly letting him know her at the deepest levels, will find it much more likely that her husband will understand her than the one who keeps her innermost self a secret and waits for him to try to drag it out, right? I mean, this isn't rocket science.

Wives, you have to understand that our current social climate is opposed to men. Turn on the TV and try to find a positive representation of a husband there. You won't find it. Between the assault of the sinful world and the associated assault of radical feminism, it has become a world largely hostile to good husbands. There are two standard approaches available in a hostile situation--fight or flight. The husband that flees is discarded as a coward, and the one that fights is too macho. So how about trying a biblical approach? Train your husband by being the wife God commands. I think you'll find it much more rewarding than the world is willing to admit. And much more rewarded by God.


In response to several emails I've received in comment to this post, I have to say, do you know what's amazing to me? It always astounds me when people, especially those who classify themselves as "Christians" (you know, filled with the Holy Spirit and all), would consider a call to be biblical (for husbands and wives, for instance) neither rational nor biblical. Does biblical Christianity offend modern sensibilities? Well, of course! We were assured it would. By definition, when the world opposes God, God's instructions will be in opposition to their perspectives on such things. So that's no measure of whether or not it's right. But when so-called brothers complain that God's Word is wrong on these points and to agree with the Bible here would be unbiblical and illogical, it baffles me. To be sure, it's not only on the subject of the roles of husbands and wives. It is on such clear things as biblical morality in the areas of sex, divorce, marriage, and all sorts of other things that defy modern sensibilities. This is just one of the common ones. What I've offered here is both logical and biblical. If it is not perceived that way, it's not because it is not so. It may be a 1 Cor 2:14 problem.
[1] Note that Paul commands women in Eph 5:22-24 to be subject to their husbands and then summarizes it in Eph 5:33 as "respect". Thus, this version of respect includes submission.

[2] Note that today's version of "awe" is pitiful compared to the original version. Today's version is, "Wow! That's totally cool!" The dictionary version is "a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder". That is much closer to the biblical version of "respect".

Sunday, October 26, 2014

An Acts 8 Outlook

In the 8th chapter of Acts we read this encouraging word: "Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ." (Acts 8:5). Oh, good for you, Philip! You go! Great job!

Whatever you do, don't look backward from that passage. You see, the farther back you step, the worse it gets.

First, we find out why Philip went down to the city of Samaria in the ominous previous verse.
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4)
"Wait ... that's good, right? They went everywhere preaching the word. That's a good thing." Yes, it is, but note the origin--"they that were scattered." Oh, now, that's a bit disconcerting. What does he mean "scattered"? Well, step back to the previous passage.
Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3)
"Oh, my! Now that is a problem. That's not good, right?" Well, no, but... You see, there's a link between verses 3 and 4. That link is "therefore". See, Paul is "ravaging the church", so believers are "scattered". And that sentence there alone cannot sound good. That's why the original idea--Philip went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them--is so important.

You see, when they executed Stephen (Acts 7:57-60), "there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles." (Acts 8:1). "A great persecution", it says. So great that just about everyone (and, remember, there are multiple mentions of thousands of converts in previous chapters) scattered. Persecution hits ("Ooo, that's bad.") and people scatter. People scatter, and so does the preaching of the word ("Ooo, that's good.")

We face persecution today. Oh, sure, in America it's "persecution lite". It's mostly just reviling and uttering "all kinds of evil against you falsely"--that kind of thing--which Jesus classified as "persecuted for righteousness' sake" (Matt 5:10-11). I know. You want to go to court and defend your rights. But, wait. This is a light persecution. Consider, then, the rest of Christendom. In the 20th century more people in the world were executed for their faith in Christ than in the previous 19 centuries combined. And in other places it goes on, people dying for Christ's sake. They are still losing their property, their freedom, their rights, their lives. The fact that some today in America are losing rights or property is just the beginning. And what can be done? You can try the courts if you like, but I think they're already demonstrating an opposition to Christian values and those who hold them. So ... what?

So remember Acts 8. Stephen did the right thing and died for it. Doing the right thing spawned persecution. Persecution scattered the Christians. As a result of persecution, then, they "went everywhere preaching the word", and "Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ." That's a good thing. That is, confidence in a Sovereign God to take the evil intentions of rebels around you to use their evils for your good and His glory is a good thing. A really good thing.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


No, this is not an article about biblical inerrancy.

I love hymns. I really do. Sure, sure, I was raised with them, and that's clearly a factor, but when I compare most hymns to modern songs, there is such a vast difference in depth. Today we shoot for "feel good". In prior times they aimed for truth. Take, for instance, Toplady's Rock of Ages. As it turns out, he wrote the song to counter Arminian theology. So when he wrote, "Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling", he meant it as a doctrinal statement. We are not saved by our works or our wills; we are saved solely by Christ alone. Contrast that with today's more "feeling" songs where we aim to feel good toward God, and you might begin to see a difference in depth. Paul said, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Col 3:16). Most of today's songs don't teach or admonish at all. They're going with sentiment, not truth.

That having been said, there is a tendency in all humans to see a group as "good" and, having labeled it such, fail to examine it very closely. Maybe it's your political party or maybe it's your family or maybe it's your church. We move these groups into a category and cease to look anymore. Death metal music? Bad. Pay attention. Easy listening? What's the harm? Don't worry about it. And that is a mistake.

So, having already indicated that I really like hymns, I want to submit that hymns are not inerrant. Let's look at just one example.

I adore And Can it Be. A really wonderful hymn. It points to the amazing truth that we might possibly be saved when we really have no right to think we should. It identifies me--not the Jews or the Romans, but me--as the one "who Him to death pursued". Very good. "Except that it makes serious errors. Like "How can it be that Thou my God didst die for me?" Well, it can't be. God cannot die. Jesus the man died. If God actually died at any point, all that exists would cease to exist--end of story. Or "He left his Father's throne above, So free, so infinite his grace!" How many times have I heard this stated as fact? "God's grace is infinite." No, it isn't. Infinite means no limitations. God's grace definitely has limitations. As a biblical proof, we are warned "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God" (Heb 12:15), a manifest impossibility if His grace is infinite. James assures us that "He gives greater grace" which would be meaningless if it is infinite and then says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6). Apparently, then, grace is limited. The proud don't get it; the humble do. His grace is huge, amazing, vast, but not infinite.

Okay, so I started that last paragraph with how much I like the hymn. My point, then, is not that hymns are bad and we need to toss them (along with most of the modern songs). My point is that hymns, old or new, are not the Word of God and are not, as such, inerrant. If we are indeed supposed to teach and admonish with the songs we sing, we should pay attention to what we're teaching and admonishing. If, on the other hand, we just want our songs to make us feel good, then we ought to erase that particular verse of the Bible and move on. Oh, no, that's probably not a good idea.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Church Fails Again

I like Wintery Knight. He has a lot on Apologetics and a lot of other good stuff. If he puts it out there, I read it. So it was a bit depressing to read his post the other day about Coeur d'Alene city officials coercing the owners of a wedding chapel to perform homosexual mirages. (Oh, sorry, I think they're spelling that "marriage". They keep using that word. I don't think that word means what they think it means.)

I wasn't disappointed because he wrote it. I wasn't disappointed because he kind of missed the point that these aren't simply "pastors"; they're the owners of a business. They're facing the same thing that the baker and the florist and the photographer and ... well, you know all those stories ... were facing. It's wrong, and I agree with him on that. But then he gave his reasons for why it is happening.
I credit Bible-centric pastors for failing to explain the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage ... That’s what 20 years of church prepares you to do. That’s what being raised in a Christian home prepares you to do.
Really? I had to read it a few times. Because it sounded like he was saying "Do away with Bible-centered pastors and Bible-centered preaching. And do away with church and Christian homes while you're at it." Funny thing. I was raised in a Christian home and a Bible-centered Christian church and will not attend a church that isn't Bible-centric, and I seem to be able to address these issues both to Christians and to unbelievers. Where did I go wrong? Could it be that it's not "Bible-centric" that is the problem?

Wintery Knight argues like so many others do. (Thus, it's not so much a reflection on him, but a general idea that fills much of American Christendom.) We have to make good arguments in order to obtain the outcome we desire. What outcome? Resistance to the gay rights movement. Defending our rights. There is a sense, as one commenter put it, that we're supposed to be "a firewall against the moral corruption of the age". Look, if you want to be persuasive, if you want to be convincing, if you want to be able to stand up for your rights and defend the faith in a world that rejects your faith, it must be by doing so without the Bible. They reject the Bible, so you can't use it. Better crank up the heat another way, 'cause that book is out of bounds.

You know, in just about any other arena he'd be right. You need to play on the field where the game is. But Christianity isn't any other arena. It is its own field. We can use philosophy or critical thinking, science or archaeology, evidence or logic. But Jesus said, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead." And Paul wrote, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the well constructed argument complete with evidence." No, that's not what he wrote. He wrote, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom 10:17).

Now, I need to be clear. I'm not saying that he's completely wrong. I think too many teachers have avoided the command to teach them to observe all that Christ commanded (Matt 28:20) when they ignored "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30). They've missed Paul's claim that sin rots the brain (Rom 1:28) and the subsequent command to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom 12:2). We are often not taught to think, but to feel warmly toward God. We are often not taught to be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). Interestingly, while folks like Wintery Knight call this a mistake, I would have to classify it as sin.

But when we think that our battle is with the world and their faulty logic and poor thinking, we've missed it. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:12). We are not dealing with unconvinced souls; we're dealing with hostile forces. "For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness." (1 Cor 1:22-23). Paul said, "Natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Cor 2:14). Thus, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void." (1 Cor 1:17).

When we try to move the work of God to our own efforts, our own skills, our own abilities, our own training and arguments and reasoning, it simply means we don't know what is at stake, what the conditions are, or what God thinks of it all. We are supposed to do our best and we are supposed to use our minds and we are supposed to defend the faith (Jude 3), but the work is a supernatural one. Discarding the Bible as central because they don't accept it will not succeed in producing the faith that is required to make the dead person alive. We are not here to stem the tide of evil, but to do what our Lord did, to aim to seek and to save the lost. Arguing the truth with a people who "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18) won't get them to the truth. Apologetics bolsters faith, sure, but it doesn't overcome spiritual hostility. That's a divine work.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Against Sensibilities

Meet sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox and Steven L. Nock. They are with the University of Virginia. (They were; Dr. Nock died in 2008.) And they did a study that just won't really see the light of day. You see, in 2006 they published What's Love Got to do With It? Equality, Equity, Commitment and Women’s Marital Quality in Social Forces, a highly regarded journal of sociology. Based on the National Survey of Families and Households with a sample size of more than 5,000 couples across American, they concluded some startling things.

They found that the highest determining factor for the happiness of wives is when husbands are emotionally committed to them. Well, okay, that's not news. But they specifically deny that it's shared housework or equal income. Hmm, that's new.

They found that wives are happiest when their husbands bring home 68% or more of the household income. Oh, really? That's not quite what we expected. we've been told that wives are happier in a 50-50 income home.

They found that women with husbands with a strong commitment to a lifelong marriage are happiest. Now, wait! We've just gone out of our way to redefine marriage to include the cancellation of any sort of permanence, and they're telling us that husbands devoted to permanent marriages make happier wives?

And get this:
Women who have more traditional attitudes—who believe, for instance, that women should take the lead in taking care of the home and family, and that men should take the lead in earning—are happier in their marriages, report more affection and understanding from their husbands, and spend more quality time with their husbands.
Okay, now that just won't fly. That goes against "modern sensibilities." And we know that modern sensibilities can't be wrong. So, look, we'll publish this thing in that Social Forces magazine and even on this University of Virginia website, but keep it on the down-low. Don't let it out that radical feminism may be wrong. Don't let on that women might be happier with a more traditional attitude. We'll just keep it quiet and let it go and no one will notice.

And here, 8 years later, it has mostly gone unnoticed. Someone please tell me that there is no conspiracy to deprive women of a greater happiness because it would align more with the biblical view than "modern sensibilities". Surely the world and the media are an unbiased evaluator of truth and all, right?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jesus v Bible

Peter Ens wrote a piece for the Huffington Post explaining, much as Naum did in comments, that Jesus read the Bible different than we do. He offers three ways.
1. Jesus didn't stick to what "the Bible says," but read it with a creative flair that had little if any connection to what the biblical writer actually meant to say.

2. Jesus felt he could "pick and choose" what parts of the Old Testament were valid and which weren't.

3. Jesus read his Bible as a Jew, not an evangelical (or even a Christian).
Now, I would tend to disagree, partly with the content of his arguments, but more to the reasoning.

Jesus read His Bible with "creative flair". Yes. Indeed, it wasn't always the same way that the original author had intended it. Now, why would that be? Could it be that Jesus was the Word Himself? Could it be that He was, in Himself, the original author of these texts? So when Moses (note that Jesus thought that Moses wrote Exodus) quoted God--"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Exo 3:6)--Moses understood that to be a reference to his ancestors. And when the Inspiration "translated" it in His day (Luke 20:27-38), He used it to point out that God "is not God of the dead, but of the living." Now, wait! I'm pretty sure that's not what Moses understood it to mean. So what's with that?

Enns writes:
What Jesus is doing here wouldn't sit well with most Christians if, say, their pastor got up and preached like this. They'd ask him or her to try and stick to the text better and if not to start looking for another line of work.
Enns is right. As it should be. Because, you see, my pastor is not God-breathed. He is not the Son of God, nor is he divinely inspired. So when Matthew does it (e.g., compare Hosea 11:1 and Matt 2:15) under divine inspiration or Jesus does it as the Son of God, I have no problem with it. It doesn't nullify the meaning. It's not a contradiction. It's just an additional meaning for an Old Testament text provided by the Author of the Old Testament text. Am I supposed to do that? By no means!

Enns argues that Jesus felt he could "pick and choose" the validity of Old Testament passages. As "clear proof" of this, he references Jesus's Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said multiple times, "You have heard it said ..." and points to something in the Law, followed by "... but I say to you ..." There, see? That passage was not valid, right? No! Jesus did not say, "It does not mean what you understood it to mean." He said, "It means that and more." When He deals with Old Testament Law, He says that murder includes the hateful intent (Matt 5:21-26), adultery includes lustful intent (Matt 5:27-30), divorce causes adultery (Matt 5:31-32), and argues that it's better not to swear at all than to swear falsely (Matt 5:33-37). None of these invalidate the original; they expand on them. God warned in Exodus 21:23-25 that the punishment must fit the crime ("eye for an eye", etc.), but Jesus says it doesn't have to be that extreme (Matt 5:38-42). (So God says, "This far and no farther" and Jesus says, "You can also choose to ignore the offense.") This is not invalidation; it is expansion. In fact, in one of the "You have heard it said" passages, Jesus addresses a tradition rather than a text: "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy" (Matt 5:43-47). That's not found in the Old Testament. And He is certainly free to correct faulty traditions. Was some of what God said in the Old Testament "inadequate" (Enns's word)? I would be seriously cautious explaining to God that He didn't say enough and I would like to offer a correction. Now, should a pastor do this kind of expansion? Probably not, since my pastor is neither God Incarnate nor divinely inspired.

I love this accusation that Jesus read the Bible as a Jew. Like there was such a thing as a Christian or evangelical at the time, but He chose not to be one. But Enns recognizes this ... and again steps on his own argument. "Jesus did not agree," he argues, "[that] 'God's word is eternal and never changes.'" Really? As I've demonstrated above, Jesus didn't actually negate God's Word. He didn't actually invalidate any of it. He expanded on it. That's fine for God Incarnate to do. That's acceptable for one divinely inspired to undertake. But this Jesus who did not agree that "God's word is eternal" argued at the outset of the Sermon on the Mount discussed above, "For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:18-19). That sure sounds eternal. And it sure does not sound like an invalidation.

Did Jesus read the Bible different than we do? As different as the actual author reads his own works, sure. That doesn't mean we should. Enns concludes, "Our own Bible shows us that getting the Bible right isn't the center of the Christian faith. Getting Jesus right is." I would suggest that he's not getting Jesus right at all if he argues that Jesus invalidates His Father's Word. But, to "get Jesus right" requires getting the Bible right, doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


In the realm of the abortion debate, there are two sides to the question. Depending on who is explaining those two sides, you will get two versions. In the current culture you have the "pro-choice" side and the "anti-abortion" side. The same explanation from the other side is that you have the "pro-abortion" side and the "pro-life" side. The problem, you see, is that the current culture fails to understand what the opposition is opposing. It is not abortion. It is murder. It is the killing of innocent children without just cause.

In the realm of the "gay marriage" debate, there are two sides to the question. On the "pro" side they'll tell you there is the "marriage equality" side and the "anti-gay side". From the "con" side they will say there is the "anti-marriage" side and the "pro-marriage" side. Because, you see, the "pro" side is, again, not understanding what the opposing side is opposing. It isn't "gay" or even "gay marriage". It is opposing the end of marriage.

In the abortion debate, at least part of the problem is that some who are opposed to abortion are opposed to abortion. It is not that they are in favor of life, but opposed to abortion as contraception. That is "anti-abortion". But for me, at least, as well as for a large number of others, on this topic it is that life is valuable, that the life in the womb is valuable, and that terminating that life for things such as birth control (the number one reason given), "I can't afford it", or terminating a child with birth defects are not acceptable reasons to kill a baby. Yet, in these debates, this opposition is rarely addressed. The rhetoric is "You're anti-woman" or "You're anti-choice" and nothing about why they favor killing children.

In the marriage debate we find the same problem. Many who oppose the current trend to force homosexual mirage[1] onto society by vote if possible or court fiat if nothing else actually oppose it on the grounds that homosexuality is immoral. It would, on those grounds, be closer to "anti-gay" (although that, too, is another of these issues of mistaken rhetoric[2]) than "pro-marriage". But for me, at least, as well as for many others, the question is not the morality of the act, but the definition of the term "marriage", the theft of that term for something else, and the value of marriage that is worth defending. When I point to the undeniable fact that marriage throughout human history has always been the union of a man and a woman (and consistently for a primary purpose that included procreation up until the end of the 20th century) and that this new version is not the same thing, the best answer that I get from those who favor the redefinition of the term (the self-styled "marriage equity" side) is "Uh-uh." That's about it. Oh, maybe it's "We're not redefining it", but they can't offer a definition. Or it's "It was never defined that way" except that they cannot, in the final analysis, demonstrate this claim in any meaningful sense[3]. On this it is not a matter of religious conviction. It is a matter of what the courts recognize as "the longstanding, traditional definition" of marriage. And they routinely ignore this fact of redefinition and slander the opposition with the "anti-gay" rhetoric. Or, for a very few, it's "Sure we're redefining it, and that's a good thing," but they can't give any sensible reasons why except for those who admit to an actual intent of redefining it to eliminate it.

For me, then, I am not "anti-gay marriage" (let alone "anti-gay"). I am pro-marriage. I am not "anti-marriage equity". I strongly favor marriage equity. And I'm not opposed to gay mirage[1] because, as one poor pastor put it on television, "I'm totally against it. I think that homosexuality is disgusting." I see the two subjects--sexual sin and marriage--as distinct subjects. So on this topic my aim is the defense of marriage, not the opposition of homosexual behavior. My efforts are toward retaining marriage, not being a "moral policeman". And it isn't "gay marriage" that is the issue. It is marriage in general. It took its hits from the sexual revolution of the 60's, tearing at the exclusiveness and sanctity of marriage. Procreation in marriage became a moot point when contraception became the norm. Marriage took a broadside from no-fault divorce, eliminating the permanence of the relationship. It is still reeling from feminism, tearing apart the mutual support concept. So this dismantling by those who call themselves "gay" but are not to seize "marriage" which is not is just the latest shot in a long war against the lifelong commitment between a male and a female for the purpose of mutual support and procreation. This long-term relationship has always been at the core of society as well as the core of Christianity. Its loss will not be quiet nor harmless. Redefinition does not improve it. And its recent redefinition to "two people who feel warmly toward each other" won't be the last. We won't recognize marriage when they're done, and that is something I find inconceivable.

If you characterize me as "anti-gay", you do so without truth. If you argue I'm "opposed to marriage equity", you do so without reason. If you suggest I'm just a religious zealot trying to oppose my version of sin, it is a false claim. Perhaps your labels work for others; they don't apply to me. Until you who disagree with me figure that out, you won't be able to engage me with my positions. You'll be opposing that which I am not. On the topic of abortion I am pro-life, and on the topic of marriage I am pro-marriage.
[1] This will be my new term from now on. Since "marriage" means something and "gay marriage" doesn't mean either "happy" or "marriage", I'm forced to use different terms to get this across.

[2] "Anti-gay" indicates an opposition to people who have same-sex attraction. I don't oppose people who have that attraction any more than I oppose married people attracted to people of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. I oppose the actions that follow ... both cases. The heterosexual husband that is attracted to another woman and acts on that attraction is an adulterer, and I oppose adultery. I have no complaint about people with heterosexual or homosexual attractions who do not act on them. Thus, in today's vernacular, I am not anti-gay; I am anti-sexual sin. I applaud the heterosexual man who denies his desires in favor of fidelity to his wife, and I applaud the man with same-sex attraction who chooses to set it aside for a higher purpose.

[3] Another critical factor in this discussion of the redefinition of marriage is the distinction between the definition and the practice. Many will suggest that marriage has been constantly redefined. "It once meant male and multiple females. It once meant that women were treated like chattel. It once meant ..." And I would argue that this is not true. It included these practices, perhaps, but was not defined by these practices. That is, a marriage that did not include polygamy or did not treat women like chattel was still a marriage, right? So practices change, but not definition.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rise Up and Bless

In Paul's first epistle to the church at Corinth he has some pretty harsh things to say. The most obvious, I'd think, is that stuff in chapter 5 where he takes them to task for the sin in their midst that they failed to address. I mean, it doesn't get much more pointed than to turn someone over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh. Ouch!

Paul indicates later that he regretted that.
For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it--though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. (2 Cor 7:8-9)
Get that? "I made you grieve with my letter," he says, and "I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you." But Paul did not ultimately regret it. He said right there, "I do not regret it." Why? "You were grieved into repenting." And that's the ultimate "good grief" (apologies to Charlie Brown).

I think many (most?) of us today don't get this idea. Paul said some pretty harsh things. He said them boldly and straightforward. He even felt bad about saying them, but it didn't stop him from saying them. Why did he say them? Because he cared. Many (most?) today would recommend the opposite. "Don't say things that will upset them," they'll urge you. "Go along to get along." Maybe they're not so wishy-washy. Maybe they're just practical. "What you want to say may be true, but they won't listen, so don't bother." So we are supposed to be more tolerant, less judgmental, certainly keep this stuff to yourself. The one side will even recommend you change your thinking, but as a minimum you should keep quiet. Do you think it's wise to irritate your kids by telling them when they're wrong? Do you think you'll be able to influence your loved ones when you've alienated them with your views of sin? No, no ... better to just be quiet.

Paul would say otherwise. Paul would say that it may be painful for you to speak harsh truths, but we must always be "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15). That's not "in a warm feeling kind of way", but "motivated by a deep concern for the best of others." The aim is not to get people to like you, but to urge them to repentance. It is not loving to remain silent while they walk into a pit.

In Proverbs we read the famous "excellent wife" passage (Prov 31:10-31). In it we read, "Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." (Prov 31:28). Will they do that if she has lied to them? Will our children thank us for turning a blind eye to the dangers they endure because of their sin? Will our spouses praise us because we keep silent when they choose to violate God's Word? Paul says, "Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret" (2 Cor 7:10). Can we expect repentance when we've offered no godly grief? Now, I don't believe that calling sin sin will necessarily result in repentance, nor do I believe that your children will immediately rise up and call you blessed when you tell them the truth about their sin. Maybe not even in this life. But so many parents aim to get along with their children over the pain and difficulty of standing for the truth for the benefit of their children. In the end, doing this will not result in a blessing, but a curse.

I don't believe that our children will rise up and bless us if we fail to speak the hard truths. I don't believe our husbands or wives will praise us for keeping silent when we could have warned them. I understand that it is difficult, even painful--painful for us--to express what appears to be harsh realities, but if we care--if we love--can we do otherwise? I don't think so.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
You know that, right? It is the starting place for all good doctrine, all orthodoxy, for Christianity itself (Rom 10:17). But have you ever given any thought to how it works to make you "equipped for every good work"?

The text is interesting, and our modern ears might miss the completeness it offers. In fact, the constant debate over whether or not God can breathe errancy can make us fail to see this point. There are four "profits" listed: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. I believe the sequence is important.

"Teaching" refers to the instruction--doctrine. It's the idea of formal instruction. "Here is what's right." So, the text tells us that the Word gives us a clear presentation of doctrine.

"Reproof" refers to being tested, especially tested and found to be wrong. It is a conviction, not in our misguided modern sense. "I felt so convicted that I should do this." No, in the legal sense. "I have been judged and declared guilty." It is an admonition to change course. "You're in the wrong; move!"

The Greek used for "correction" is most literally translated "the straightening up again". Very picturesque. You're crooked; this is how you get straight.

It's interesting that the fourth term, "training in righteousness", appears to be the same as the first, "teaching". Aren't "training" and "teaching" the same? Nearly. Not quite. This "training" is from the concept of a tutor. In the language, it is rooted in the concept of training up a child, a tutor for your kid. A tutor teaches, obviously, but does so by constant contact. A teacher you can hear once, but tutoring is an ongoing process. It includes instruction and nurture ... and chastisement.

Do you see the path, then? First, "Here is the way; walk in it." Teaching. We, of course, don't always succeed at that. So, next, it's "You've deviated from the path. Here's where you've gone wrong." Reproof. The natural next question is "Now what? How do I get back on the path?" And that's correction. Having returned to the right path, it is wise and necessary to walk alongside in a continuous way to teach and demonstrate the right path to take.

The text is a complete story. "Here's the right path," and when you've departed from it, it will point it out and give you the direction to return to the right path. Always it will walk alongside to hold you to the right way. That produces a thoroughly equipped man.

I would urge caution, then, about attempting to proceed in the Christian life without this ultimately profitable, God-breathed Word that equips you by all necessary means for every good work. A Christian without his Sword (Eph 6:17) is a pitiful thing at best, and at worst a dangerous thing. A Christian making a daily walk with God and His Word is a well-equipped person.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Houston Still has a Problem

How bad is it when the ACLU comes out against government infringement on Freedom of Religion in that whole Houston issue? Even Slate, an almost exclusively leftist liberal publication, considers it "a terrible idea".

So, the subpoena requires several pastors to turn over all "speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO[1], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession." Wow! Not merely speeches and presentations. Sermons as well. Not simply about the topic (HERO) or the mayor, but the concepts of homosexuality and gender identity. Not only sermons prepared by the pastor, but those in his possession. Very, very broad.

So, I'd want to be sure to include Jonathan Edwards's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I'd be sure to put copies of Bible texts like Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and Romans 1 ... oh, probably everything from verse 18 through the end of the chapter. Now that should all be included in "speeches, presentations, or sermons" on the topic of "homosexuality" and "gender identification" that the pastor has delivered, approved, or has in his possession. You know, Charles Spurgeon has some good stuff about Sodom and Gomorrah that most decent pastors should have in their possession as well.

The good news, of course, is that the city attorneys are no longer seeking sermons. There, all fixed, right? Just "presentations and speeches" now. Because that's much better. Although trying to define the difference between "speeches and presentations" and "sermons" seems fairly impossible when defines "sermon" as "any serious speech, discourse, or exhortation, especially on a moral issue." So I'm still going to recommend that they be sure to pass on all those "speeches and presentations" from Scripture and from historic preachers. Maybe include the Romans Road? I don't know ... if you look at it right, this could be more of an opportunity than a problem. It certainly is for God.
[1] HERO: Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

Friday, October 17, 2014

Another One Bites the Dust

In 1996 Arizona passed a law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In 2008, the voters pushed it further, by a large margin, to make that definition a part of the State constitution. And in early October U.S. District Judge John Sedwick decided to outlaw marriage. When the Supreme Court decided not to hear any of the cases from states defending their constitutional definitions of marriage, the court effectively redefined marriage for 11 states. Not rationally, of course. It didn't matter that the states had spoken. It didn't matter that the laws were passed, the constitutions were made, the definition was set. All that mattered was the new, false definition had to be allowed to replace the definition that has been in place for all recorded human history and made law in those states.

Will you notice? Not likely. The media is reporting that they've struck down a "gay marriage ban". This is what is known as "a lie".. The news outlets are celebrating freedom. This isn't entirely honest either, since those who will find themselves forced by law and by arms if necessary to support such ceremonies as florists, photographers, bakers, and the like will have no recourse. A matter of principle? No, not really. Your principles are legally irrelevant. They say that it's a big step forward. Not so. Sticking the knife into the neck of the suffering institution of marriage can't be a step forward.

Marriage in Arizona, along with Alaska and Wyoming, went down today. It won't go quietly. The rationale one man on the street offered was, "It's America. People should be allowed to do whatever they want ... you know, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone." Oh, it's gonna hurt. But the damage will be slow and deep ... like the proverbial frog in the pot. Unfortunately it's likely the next generation who will be stewed in the process. But since marriage was God's idea, I suspect that the final response from Him toward those who have stolen it and murdered it will be more unpleasant the what we will see in our lifetime.

This just in. "The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is taking a step many opponents of same-sex marriage feared would come – forcing those with religious objections to perform same-sex marriages or risk facing prosecution for violating non-discrimination laws." Now, the line is somewhat misleading--the ruling is for a wedding chapel, not a church--but it doesn't matter. When they tell you "It won't make any difference to you!" don't believe it.

Freedom from Religion

24/7 Wall St reported that in 2014 the average American spent $137.46 on Easter. It was down, they said, from 2013. So Easter infused the American economy with "only" $15.9 billion. In 2013 Americans injected almost $7 billion (with a "b") into the economy for Halloween celebrations. Candy, costumes, decorations, parties ... it all adds up. Last year the U.S. News & World Report said that "Americans will spend the GDP of Sri Lanka on Thanksgiving weekend." That, in case you were wondering, was around $579 billion. And then there's Christmas. All by itself Christmas creates jobs, boosts the economy, puts businesses that were unprofitable for 10 months finally in the black, and ripples through nearly every nook and cranny to make our economy a cheerier place at the most wonderful time of the year. From manufacturing to transportation to sales, from sales taxes and charity increases and nearly every single product type available, the impact is huge. reports that in 2013 the U.S. retail industry sales were $3.12 trillion (yes, that's a "t") for Christmas. There were over 720,000 people employed to handle the Christmas rush. Christmas trees alone accounted for more than $1 billion. Oh, yeah, if Halloween is large and Thanksgiving is larger, Christmas is the mother of all economic boons to the American economy.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if America got what so many loud mouths are calling for and suing for? "Freedom from religion" is the aim, the hue and cry. "Get religion out of the public square!" From the courtrooms to the media, from the sitcoms to the celebrities, from the "thinkers" to the stinkers, we are hearing loud and clear, "We don't want Christianity in our faces." (Odd. There is an almost equally loud defense of Islam.) So, what would happen if they got what they wanted?

Well, on a purely economic basis, we would likely see the collapse of the national economy. Oh, perhaps that's too dire. The truth is, however, a large number of small businesses depend on Christmas to make them profitable for the year. Not profitable, not in business. How many nations have an economy capable of a $3 trillion crash? Yank out Thanksgiving and it only gets worse. Remove Halloween and Easter and the numbers are staggering. But if they were to be consistent with their demands, all of these would have to go. No more Thanksgiving holidays or Christmas holidays. Indeed, the entire word "holiday" -- short for "holy day" -- would need to be banned.

But Christianity has had much more of an impact on our modern world than most people realize. And not merely economic.

Christianity held that true progress and fulfillment is found only in community. The "lone wolf" mentality of many in America today is a product of the departure from religion, not from religion itself.

Christianity taught that we are made in the image of God. We are, as such, of intrinsic value. This value is not reducible. It is not dependent on actions, activities, skills, talents, contributions to society, income ... anything else. As part of this "image of God" concept we have derived "inalienable rights endowed by the Creator". And in this intrinsic value due to the image of God, we have intrinsic equality; no one person is worth more than another. That crosses gender lines as well as class and economics and anything else you might name.

This is a value equality; it does not mean a sameness. The Bible specifies differences, uniqueness, and interrelated connections. Eve was designed by God as a "helpmeet" (Gen 2:18), a complement to Adam, filling up the deficiencies in the male. Paul describes Christians as a body so that, like a body, 1) all components are important and, therefore, valuable, and 2) all components are different, with varied functionality and visibility (1 Cor 12:14-25). So we see value, equal value, intrinsic value, and, on the other hand, individuality and uniqueness.

The Bible indicates that in the Garden of Eden God assigned Adam work, "and it was good." Christianity puts a premium on work. Paul wrote, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." (2 Thess 3:10). (How does that play with the "social justice" crowd that demands that enforced charity is a "Christian value"?)

The singular identifier noted by Christ of a Christian is "if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). The singular Christian value, then, is love. Love for God. Love for fellow believers. Love for your neighbor (which seems to be so broadly defined as to include anyone with whom you come in contact). Out of this key ingredient, then, it is obvious that compassion would produce charities, care facilities, medical help, anything that will serve our fellow man.

Jesus said, "I am the Truth." (John 14:6). Thus, truth is a critical component of Christianity. Jesus promised to send His Holy Spirit who "will teach you all things" (John 14:26). So Christians for the past 2,000 years have made the pursuit of truth a basic aim. By pursuing truth, Christians believed they could "think God's thoughts after Him." It was a Christian duty discovering, as they believed, ways in which nature spoke of God (Psa 19:1; Rom 1:19-20). As such, modern science owes its origins to Christianity.

Years ago I met a young man from China. Actually, he stayed with us for several months, an opportunity offered through my work. He learned of Christ through us. One day he told me, "China needs God." I asked him why. "Without God," he said, "there is no justice, no conscience, no established morality." A quote attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville says, "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." It is, in fact, Christian morality that tends to make a nation great. It regulates crime, protects families, stigmatizes wrong. A 2009 study out of Harvard indicated that one of the most measurable effects on a nation's economy is how strongly people believe in Hell (and Heaven). Yes, that's right. If you believe that there is a God and He is watching and there are consequences, it changes how you act. And it changes how you interact. So we have the "Protestant work ethic" and the concept of a "vocation" as a calling from God rather than a mere job. Christian morality has a major impact on society.

Now, imagine all of that removed. They get what they demand. Religion is banned from the public square. At least, Christianity. Remove any basis for human rights endowed by a Creator. Take away intrinsic value. Eliminate equality, an illusion we enjoy today on the back of a Christian value system. Cancel "concern for others" as a fundamental virtue. Delete Christian charities and care facilities. Banish any sense of absolute truth, making all pursuit of truth random and individual. And having removed the ground for rights, the value of the individual, the equality of each person, and the care for fellow man, now tear down Christian morality with its core concept of justice to bear it up. Oh, and you might as well factor in the economic impact I outlined above. What do you have? We've seen hints of this in the news. Children killing children. American-made terrorists. Ponzi schemes predicated on "I have the right to satisfy my own desires and you're no better than I am." But given a complete removal of Christianity from public, the effect would be magnified. The economic breakdown coupled with the moral relativism and the end of intrinsic human rights would be staggering. The mechanisms to help people in such wretched times--charities and hospitals and the like--would be absent, lacking both religious motivation and philosophical basis. The result would be catastrophic.

But, hey, who am I to tell them "No"? Freedom from religion? Easy stuff. Like the disasters of 20th century Soviet communism or Mao's regime. Surely it's a bit of paradise, right? Of course not. Nor would all this happen. Because, you see, society would continue to steal from the religion they banned. They would irrationally cling to rights endowed by a Creator they ejected and hold to morality rooted in the religion they freed themselves from. They would prop themselves up on the system they reject and ignore the consequences. "Just a little more control or a few higher taxes or ..."

You will hear it said that religion is the worse thing to happen to Man. You will hear it argued that religion is the cause of a host of woes. When you do, think again.

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Wrong Reasons

You may have heard. Mark Driscoll resigned. If you don't know who that is, he was the founder and pastor of the Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington. It boasts some 14,000 members and is known for its leading edge feel. "Last Easter, for example, the church's 15 locations in five states packed in more than 21,000 attendees for its service, and another 50,000 people watched the downtown Seattle service online."

I am not here to oppose or defend Mark Driscoll. He resigned because "I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit." So, okay. I won't second guess him. What I am noticing is that 1) it made the mainstream media (the story I quote here is from MSN) and 2) the reasons they are offering are ... awful.

Driscoll wasn't charged with heresy or immorality. He was just domineering (1 Peter 5:3). But MSN offers, "some of Driscoll’s theological views have been cited as opposing modern sensibilities." Like? "Complementarianism", for example. And here, in front of God and the world, we encounter a problem. A pastor has resigned because his message opposes "modern sensibilities". You know, like Jesus did with His messages. And Paul did with his. And the Bible promises it will. Complementarianism, for instance, is biblical. God created male and female with equal dignity and equal worth, but they have different roles to play ... because the Bible says so. Driscoll wasn't asked to take a leave of absence because he taught biblical values, but that's what MSN would have us believe.

As I said, I'm not here to oppose or defend the man. But when the media fails to understand and offers the completely false suggestion that correct theology should not oppose modern sensibilities, they're just illustrating the problem: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mastering the English Language

Language is not, as it turns out, something real. It is merely the means by which humans communicate ideas. It is the expression of thoughts. Language, then, is structured by thoughts and simply the vehicle by which those thoughts are expressed.

It is no surprise, then, that the massive and ongoing efforts to master the English language continues unabated. If we can take your expression of thoughts and twist it enough to make you feel a certain way, we've not only mastered the language; we've mastered you.

So we hear repeatedly from the news media that Adrian Peterson hit his child with a tree branch. Appalling. Horrible. No one thinks otherwise. Except the term "tree branch" does not express what really happened. He used a "switch". A "branch" is a piece of a tree that grows from the trunk. A "switch" is a slender, flexible stick or twig. So when the media again and again tells you that Mr. Peterson hit his son with a branch, I really want to show up and ask. "Hey, in one hand I have a branch and in the other a switch. I'm going to hit you with one. You decide which one you want." Sure, the injuries to the boy were not right and I'm not defending Peterson, but, please, media, stop using terms that stir emotions without having their basis in fact. They are manipulating your emotions by playing with words.

There is a whole world of this kind of twisting of the English language in the realm of homosexuality. First, there is "gay". In 1934 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers played together in The Gay Divorcee, a comedy about a woman trying to divorce her husband, not the story of same-sex attraction. But today the term cannot mean "merry", "bright", or "abounding in social pleasures", the meanings most common in the very recent past. The Flintstones promised "a gay old time", and they surely didn't reference sexual desire in it.

Then there's "anti-gay". Shifting "gay" from "merry" to "sexual relations between the same gender", it moves again to from "same-sex attraction" to a definition of a birth condition. In a recent episode of CBS's Blue Bloods, the Catholic chief of police played by Tom Selleck was asked about one of his officers who was "outed" as "gay". How could the chief defend this officer and remain consistent with his "anti-gay religious views"? You see, it is now "anti-gay"--opposition to a group of people who were "born that way"--to believe as the Bible teaches that a particular behavior is a sin. Funny thing ... no one uses the term "anti-thief" or "anti-murderer" if you consider theft or murder a sin. But switching "gay" from "happy" to "same-sex preference" and from "same-sex preference" to "same-sex orientation", then suddenly "anti-gay" becomes an opposition to an entire class of people rather than a particular behavior.

And it doesn't stop there. We are currently in a massive upheaval of the term "marriage". Multiple states defined "marriage" as "the union of a man and a woman" and are then accused of having a "gay marriage ban". That's the term. They don't have a "ban on dogs marrying cats" or even a "polygamy ban"; it's a "gay marriage ban". Words. A mastering of the English language intended solely to control how you think. No longer is it about "marriage"; it's about equality. "Other people have the right to do x, so if we are to have equal protection under the law, we will redefine x to mean y and then demand our right to have x just as you do." But it is a twist, a hijack, a means of controlling your thinking. Worse, it is working. So obscured now is the language that very few--even among those who favor traditional marriage and oppose "gay marriage"--recognize that the language has changed, the idea has been subverted, and your ideas are being manipulated by your language.

So it goes. "Love" changes to "sex". "Happiness" changes from "emotional contentment" to "indulging my own pleasures". "Pro-life" changes to "anti-choice". "Tolerance" shifts from "allowing the existence of something with which you disagree" to "embracing that with which you disagree so that you no longer disagree with it" and it is now "intolerant" to be tolerant. "Judgment" originally referred to the ability to form an opinion, to decide, to distinguish between good and bad, and now it's "having the view that something that we embrace is wrong" ... and it's not judgmental to attack those who have such a view.

All of this without even touching on Christianity. Because in that realm there is a host of language variations that have been wrought to alter the meanings of concepts, ideas, and doctrines. Words get pulled out of Christianity, rotated to a new meaning, then fed back in and you're supposed to swallow them whole. I would venture to guess that a good part of the entire process of mastering the language in order to alter your thinking is, in the final analysis, aimed at altering your thinking about Christ. Terms like "love your neighbor" are subverted when "love" is redefined and "the Bride of Christ" means something quite different when "marriage" is changed. "Rejoice evermore" moves from "joy" to "happiness" to "doing whatever makes me feel pleasant", and even "sin" is shifting under the pounding that Satan is giving it so that it becomes a "faux pas", a "mistake, so that even if you use the words correctly, they will no longer mean what you intended and you may not even know that you no longer mean what they intended. Oh, no, this isn't mere "evolution" of a language. This mastery of language is war (Eph 6:12).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blessed Are They

You remember the story of Doubting Thomas, right? In John 20 we read of Jesus's visit to the disciples after rising from the dead (John 20:19-24). He exchanges words with them, and the text, at the end, notes, "Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came." Well, when they told Thomas they had seen the Lord, he ... well, you know ... he doubted. It was the famous skeptical, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." (John 20:25). Well, of course, the story ends with Jesus joining the disciples later with Thomas present and offering Thomas His hands and His side. "Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." (John 20:27) And Thomas instantly ran out of doubt.

I'm interested in Jesus's response to Thomas's "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Jesus answered, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20:29).

So we have the source and the end of Doubting Thomas. And we have this allusion to ... us. Everyone who has believed in Christ without seeing Him is in the category of "blessed" based on Jesus's words here. I wonder, however, whether we are closer to "blessed" or Thomas.

There is a large thrust lately to produce evidence and argument for Christ. And that's all well and good. I'm not opposed. You know, be "ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15), "Contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3), that sort of thing. All good. And there is a thrust today that suggests it is far better to trust Christ based on the evidence than merely in faith. Evidence is much better than faith ... right?

You see, Thomas required evidence. Jesus said those who didn't were blessed. So it would seem to me that believing regardless of evidence would be better. And then you see this over in 1 Peter.
Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
Well, now, isn't that interesting. Apologetics -- the defense of the faith -- is good and right, but Peter says that the hope for which we are to give account is fixed on "the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Hmm. Not "the best arguments and evidence you can find." Peter says that we are to "Prepare your minds for action" with this in mind.

You see, I think, despite all our bravado and bluster, that many of us are much closer to Thomas than the blessed. We prefer evidence and reason over straightforward faith. It is better to believe because you've seen the proofs than just to place your trust in the grace of Christ. And it sounds so reasonable. The only catch is that the Bible seems to disagree.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Separation of Church and State

Most Americans know the phrase, "the separation of Church and State", and we're all equally clear on what it means. It means that the Church doesn't get to tell the State what to do, and the State doesn't get to tell the Church what to do. And, as seems to be too often the case, we'd be largely wrong.

The notion of the separation of these two entities comes from the Constitution -- the Bill of Rights, to be precise. The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That's it. That's the origin of the term, "the separation of Church and State." Oddly, the phrase doesn't appear in the Amendment. That came first from Thomas Jefferson who wrote in a letter about "a wall of separation between church and state". "See?" they say, "It was the founders' original idea!" Well, okay, but what was their original idea?

In the Constitutional debate of 1789, they argued, "We do not want in America what we had in Great Britain." What did they have in Great Britain? In 1559 a law known as the Act of Uniformity required that all British citizens become part of the Church of England. This was intolerable to some. The Puritans protested. Without relief, they then started leaving the country. Many ended up in North America to obtain the ability to practice Christianity as they believed they must. This was the Great Britain they hoped to avoid, a nation that selected a State religion and required everyone to conform. What they did not seek was what is referred to today as "freedom from religion". Instead, they affirmed, "We do want God's principles, but we don't want one denomination running the nation." (From the official texts of these debates, one suggested wording of that phrase in the First Amendment was "Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.")

Read that phrase from the First Amendment again. What you see there is not, as is popularly believed, the exclusion of religion from government. It is the protection of the rights of the people in religion. Think about it. There are two possible assaults on religious freedom. One is to mandate religion and the other is to forbid it. Outlawing the practice of religion is obvious. Less obvious is the proclamation of a religion. You see, when Great Britain established the Church of England as the required religion of the day, it excluded all other possibilities. And this is just as burdensome to individual religious freedom as the outlawing of a religion.

In a recent speech to an audience at Colorado Christian University, Justice Scalia said, "I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion." He's right. The so-called "separation of church and state" so firmly demanded in this country is actually the separation of the state from the church. That is, the aim was to prevent the State from infringing on the rights of the people for their "free exercise" of their religion. So Congress could not make a law that would prohibit you or I from the free exercise and no law that would prohibit the free exercise of your beliefs by establishing a state religion. That does not mean that government must exclude religion in its considerations. That was not the intent of the concept.

Back in 2003 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) shot down Texas laws against sodomy in Lawrence v Texas. Justice Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion. Referring often to Roe v Wade, Scalia saw in this act of the court the end of morality in jurisprudence He wrote, "State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only ... based on moral choices." He foresaw that when murdering the unborn and removing religious morality were Law, the rest of morality in the courts would fall. Back in 2003 he wrote, "If moral disapprobation[1] of homosexual conduct is 'no legitimate state interest' for purposes of proscribing that conduct ... what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising '[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution'?" (This was 5 years before California's historic proof that he was right.) And Scalia has been proven correct ... repeatedly.

The notion of the separation of Church and State was intended to say that the State cannot determine the religious practices of the people. Our society is working at jettisoning that concept. "We'll keep religion out of government, but surely the State can dictate what religious practices you can enjoy." For instance, "We'll give you a tax-exempt status for your religious organization," they smile and say, "but that means you can't say anything about political issues." That's not religious freedom. Bakers, photographers, florists, and many others are required to void their religious beliefs if it contradicts the wishes (wishes, not religious beliefs) of another[2]. When Ronnie Hastie praised God for the touchdown he made, he was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. When they penalized Husain Abdullah, Muslim NFL player, for the same type if thing, the NFL apologized. The populace complains about "corporate greed", and when you point out, "Hey, a corporation can't have greed because it's not a person," they say, "Oh, but it is made up of people, so it is a person." When the owners of a corporation say, "Our religious beliefs don't allow us to pay for the murder of babies," they'll reply, "Corporations aren't people, so you don't get that right", and Hobby Lobby had to fight it to the Supreme Court, where the slimmest of allowances was made for "closely-held corporations". The list goes on and on. Catholic adoption agencies are closed, university clubs that require that a person with Christian beliefs be in leadership roles of a Christian club are cancelled. Protections for citizens with beliefs regarding whom they support are denied. On and on it goes.

Odd, isn't it? The constitutional notion of the separation of Church and State was to protect the individual's freedom to practice his or her religious beliefs, both without restriction and without mandate. As it turns out, the only protection we're ending up with is a defense of the State from religious intrusion. And, as it turns out, that was never intended in the First Amendment or in the minds of the Founding Fathers. Where did we go wrong?[3]
[1] Disapprobation: noun; strong disapproval, typically on moral grounds

[2] If you were keeping track, that sentence contained links to 5 different cases, all in the U.S., and all for the same thing. And that's only a sampling.

[2] That, dear reader, is what is known as a rhetorical question. The answer is found in Rom 1:18, Jer 17:9, Rom 1:28, Isa 53:6, Rom 5:12, etc.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Evidence of Jesus

The news is reporting that the Vatican has found an eyewitness, non-Christian, firsthand account of a miracle performed by Jesus. Now, this is really cool stuff. The guy was a Roman, not a Jew. He wasn't reporting on the Messiah, wasn't a follower of Christ, wasn't connected in any way except that he was there and saw it. And wrote it down. When we hear, "There is no evidence for the historical Jesus," we can be quite sure that this is not true.

I like this stuff, but I'm cautious. I believe that Jesus was a historical character, that He actually walked the earth, that He really lived in Palestine at the beginning of our current method of counting years. I believe that the Gospel accounts are accurate, that people knew Him and talked to Him and ate with Him. I believe that He did genuine miracles, performed as signs that backed up His claims to being the Jewish Messiah and God Incarnate. So something like this falls nicely under that structure to undergird it. However, I'm not resting the weight of my beliefs on 2,000-year-old Vatican documents. I'm resting my beliefs on the person of Jesus Christ.

You see, if I plant my flag on physical evidence or historical accounts, what am I supposed to do when someone else offers physical evidence or historical accounts that counter my beliefs? If I am to be consistent, I'd need to change my beliefs, right? I mean, embracing evidence that agrees with me and simply rejecting evidence that doesn't isn't rational. And I am quite confident that belief in Jesus Christ is rational.

Jesus the Nazarene was, I'm quite confident, a genuine historical figure. He lived, did miracles, was crucified, and rose again. I believe it. If natural methods support that belief, good! If not, no problem. Because I have placed my confidence in my Savior, not in the evidence that argues for (or against) Him. My beliefs are the product of a changed heart, not a line of evidence and arguments. And He is completely trustworthy. So evidence or not, I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day (2 Tim 1:12).
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." (Lam 3:24)
As Josh has so kindly pointed out, the source of the story, the World News Daily Report, is a source like The Onion, a parody news source. It is not an actual news outlet nor does it claim to be. The story above is false. Which only illustrates my point. If we place our confidence in news items and stories like this one and then find them to be false, where do we then stand? Nowhere. If we place our confidence in Christ and in His Word, then where do we stand? In Christ. Much, much better.