Monday, October 31, 2011
Jesus preached that salvation is available to every seeker:
• Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
It isn’t just that Jesus has the ability to save, He also is more than eager to save – far more so than even our natural fathers. The humbled sinner therefore should never doubt that He will generously answer.
However, it often seems that He has not answered, that He has turned a cold back to us. When I mentioned the promise of these verses to an atheist, he responded, “I’ve already tried that seek-and-find stuff.” And the atheist isn’t alone in feeling this way! The Christian also often feels abandoned by God.
I too had felt this way on many occasions. After I failed to find peace from my highly recommended psychotherapists, I began to reluctantly resort to my last hope – God. Believers told me that when I at the bottom, God would respond to me. Well, I was certain that I had hit the bottom, and so I cried out to this mysterious God, and when He didn’t respond, I cursed Him out as thoroughly as I possibly could. If He existed, I became convinced that He just didn’t like me very much.
However, He did reveal Himself six years later, when I was indeed at the end of the line. I was lying in a pool of blood resulting from a careless chain-saw injury, thinking that any moment would be my last. I had lost so much blood, I though it was just a matter of moments. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by the realization that I wasn’t alone. I was as certain of His presence as I was of the blood that covered me, and I was filled with ecstatic joy and peace. I knew that He loved me and would protect me, even if I died.
Later, I wondered why He hadn’t revealed Himself sooner. I don’t think I had been ready. Although I wanted God, I wanted Him my way. Unless He conformed Himself to my specifications, I wasn’t interested. I thought I had been searching, but I really wasn’t. I didn’t really want to know God, although I did want His help.
Our Lord has His own timing, and Scripture began to reveal this to me. Moses had jumped the gun, assuming that God would bless his attempt to lead the Israelite slaves out of Egypt. However, it wasn’t God’s time. Moses had risked everything and lost it all. Even his Israelite brethren turned against him, and so Moses fled in fear, surrendering any hope of ever serving God.
However, 40 years later, God appeared to Moses in the midst of a burning bush and instructed him to return to Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of bondage. Moses vigorously objected, insisting that he wasn’t the right man for the job (Exodus 3-4). However, now the timing was God’s.
Our Lord assures us that He wants to give us all things, including salvation to the sincere seeker:
• Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
• All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)
• Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord [sincerely] will be saved. (Romans 10:13)
However, we might not be ready. Although we might be certain that we are ripe to hit the Lotto and become millionaires, we might not be able to perceive the costs. However, surveys of Lotto-winners reveal an entirely different landscape of ruined lives.
This shouldn’t surprise us. Often, we’ve been heart-broken after receiving what we thought would make us happy – whether it came in the form of a house, a relationship, or a job.
Never fear that God has rejected you and doesn’t want you to be saved. Scripture assures us otherwise:
• The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Nevertheless, from our perspective, He might seem slow. However Peter assures us that time in His estimation is different than ours (2 Pet. 3:8). Please know that there is not one instance in all of Scripture where someone came to the Lord seeking forgiveness/salvation and was denied. ANY who seek will find!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Christianity is about receiving certain powerful (Romans 1:16-17), transformational (Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 2:2) truths about our Lord (John 17:26; Romans 10:14-15). Truth is central. While truth establishes those who receive it, untruths can undo us (Titus 1:7-11; 2 Tim 2:24-26; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Cor. 4:4; Matthew 13:19; Col. 2:8).
Consequently, doctrine (teachings) is the life blood of the church (Heb. 5:12-14). Nevertheless, we have to be quick to admit that our knowledge isn’t perfect (1 Cor. 13). We grope for understanding. We can only fathom the blurred contours of our God (Isaiah 55:8-9). Nevertheless, the imperfect knowledge that we have is still meaningful (1 John 5:20) and can impart to us the treasures of assured knowledge (Col. 2:2-4). This is a far cry from the messages that emerge from the Emergent Church (EC):
• This fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction form another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping…and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry. (Tony Jones, The New Christians, 234)
If we can’t “capture” anything of God through our doctrinal “structures” and if all of our attempts represent “idolatry,” how then can Jones’ charges of “idolatry” not come back to indict him also? He too claims to be the recipient of certain truths. That’s why he’s writing!
Instead, our God actually instructs us to “capture” Him “in our finite propositional structures.” In fact, a relationship with God is brought about through a these doctrinal “structures.” He leads us into the knowledge of Him to marry us to Him:
• We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
Jesus even prayed,
• I have made you known [doctrinally] to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:26)
Doctrine – the knowledge of God – is essential for our entire life. One Christian gave me a poignant example. She had been tormented by the fact that she wasn’t experiencing the joy that she thought she was supposed to experience as a Christian. However, she learned from Scripture that the hardships were necessary to make her more like her Savior (2 Cor. 4:10-11; Heb. 12:5-11. She now knew that there was a purpose behind what she had been experiencing.
Consequently, as a result of learning this Biblical truth, she was now eager to patiently endure. Doctrine had enabled her to find cognitive rest – peace!
This reminded me of my own experience. While working for the NYC Department of Probation, I had experienced a great deal of rejection from my co-workers. Already having a strong tendency to feel rejected, I found this extra burden devastating. These experiences indicted me as an inadequate failure of a person. However, they also drove me deeper into Scripture, where I was reminded and deepened in the understanding of my Savior’s unfathomable love for me (Eph. 3:16-20). My painful feelings also deepened my resolve to find my self-definition in God’s thoughts alone:
• Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. (Proverbs 29:25)
Over-concern about the opinions of others will kill us. However, when our ultimate concern is invested in God’s opinions, we find life. I can now look back on those painful times with thanksgiving. He taught me so much through them. However, Scripture played an essential role in this spiritual victory.
In contrast to this, Emergent guru Jones writes:
• Giving in to the pressure to petrify the conversation in a ‘statement’ would make Emergent easier to control; its critics could dissect it and then place it in a theological museum alongside other dead conceptual specimens… (235)
Coming to a firm doctrinal resting place is something that Jones likens to calcification, death and formaldehyde. Since “truth” is in constant flux, we have no mental resting place – nothing to lean on in the midst of doubts and fears. Instead, we are to search, ask questions, discuss, but never find, because once we “find,” we become “dead conceptual specimens.”
Sadly, Jones is searching without any expectation of finding. He also writes without any hope that anyone will be persuaded, because if they are, they too will become “specimens” packed away in formaldehyde.
Friday, October 28, 2011
I’ve written earlier about Viki Knox, the NJ teacher who faces possible discharge. She had responded to her school’s celebrating Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Month on her Facebook page:
• Why parade your unnatural behaviors before the rest of us…I DO NOT HAVE TO TOLERATE ANYTHING OTHERS WISH TO DO. I DO HAVE TO LOVE AND SPEAK AND DO WHAT’S RIGHT.
These are no doubt politically incorrect and offensive words to many, but are they any more offensive than the words of the Media? In an editorial entitled “Bigoted Teacher Has To Go,” The Sunday Star Ledger (TSSL) accused that Knox “spouted hate speech.” Would it have been hate speech had she instead spoke against pedophiles and incesters? Of course not! Why then does her speech qualify as hate speech?
It’s also important to distinguish her intolerance of “unnatural behaviors” from intolerance of the youth who might struggle with SSA. There’s a world of difference between the two. Knox criticized behaviors, not the person of the youth. It’s the same difference between criticizing cheating and telling the youth, “You’re no good!”
What’s the matter with some strait-shooting? TSSL has no problem demeaning Knox as a “bigot,” but it will not tolerate open discussion about the viability of certain behaviors, especially in regards to the school setting. The school is certainly celebrating “unnatural behavior,” whether sexuality might be ascribed to evolution or to God. Something or Someone designed us for procreation with the opposite sex. This might be a good topic of discussion – “Should the school promote what is unnatural?” However, such discussion is forbidden. By virtue of what? Intimidation!
Here’s another good question – “Are these behaviors self-enhancing or self-destructive?” Shouldn’t the school system be concerned about this question and the ultimate welfare of their children? They have become so ready to allow or even encourage students to adopt a sexual identity, while many studies have shown that sexuality is very fluid, especially during the teenage years. If this is the case and if schools are to get into the sex promotion business, shouldn’t they guide students into more salutary lifestyles, and not those that bump 20 years off the average lifespan? However, the agents of intimidation are unwilling to field such relevant questions.
Ironically, TSSL has labeled Knox as “bigoted,” because she has refused to buckle under the present orthodoxy. TSSL concludes that “we don’t see how Knox ever could be an effective, trusted teacher again.” But how about a school system that wants to promote Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Month against the prevailing sentiments of many parents and students? Isn’t it equally “bigoted” towards the more traditional beliefs? Could such a school ever “be an effective, trusted [school] again?”
What’s good for the goose is good for the school and the agents of intimidation also. If Knox can no longer be trusted, why should such a school or a newspaper that attempts to silence and eliminate those who disagree be trusted? Do you smell hypocrisy there?
What we believe impacts the rest of our lives. This is especially true when it comes to what we believe about God and His gift of salvation. If we believe that this gift is absolutely free – something we will never loose – we will be filled with gratefulness, motivating good works (Titus 3:3-8).
If instead, we believe that it’s not a done-deal, our focus will be a self-focus, not a God-focus, examining ourselves to see whether we are making the heavenly “cut-off” point. We will then have either of two responses. Either, we will be confident that our faith is genuine enough or our works adequate enough to gain us entry. In this case, our faith is not only in God but also in self! We therefore assure ourselves that we have whatever it takes to cross the finish line. Consequently, we will also look down on others who have failed to make the grade.
The other possibility is that we will not be confident about our standing before God or in our ability to adequately please Him with either our faith or obedience. This will lead to depression and probably resentment towards God for setting the bar too high. Either scenario undermines the Christian faith.
Instead, it is imperative that we understand that salvation is absolutely free, lest any should boast (Eph. 2:8-9), not just at the point of receiving it, but also throughout our entire lifespan as faith carries us home to be with our Savior. I’ll try to set forth a brief Scriptural case for the fact that once we believe and are “sealed” (Eph 4:30), we can be certain about our eternal destiny:
1. EVERLASTING LIFE:
So many verses assert that we already have everlasting life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:40; 10:27-28; 4:13-14; 6:51). The nature of this gift implies that it can’t be lost. If it could be lost, then we never had everlasting life, because everlasting life by its very nature lasts. If we loose it, it means we never really had it:
• But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (Hebrews 3:6)
If we don’t “hold on” to it, it means that we never had it.
2. IT WON’T BE REVOKED:
The gift of salvation isn’t like being on parole. We need not fear that it might ever be revoked. Paul even referred to God’s gift to the Jewish people as “irrevocable”:
• As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29)
The same also pertains to our gift of salvation:
• For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Here, Paul covered the entire range of possible threats, concluding that there is nothing in this life or the next, present or future, that can wrench away from us His gift of salvation. Even the Old Testament prophecies assert the permanency of this New Covenant promise:
• I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (Jeremiah 32:40; 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27; Isaiah 54:9-10; 59:21)
According to these New Covenant prophecies, our confidence is not in ourselves to keep the conditions of the covenant, but in God who guarantees that we “will never turn away.” Other verses assure us that He will keep us until the end (1 Cor. 1:8; Jude 1; John 17:12; 6:39-40).
3. NOT OF OURSELVES:
We are explicitly warned to not taken credit for any aspect of salvation. If we did, we would boast (Eph. 2:8-9; Romans 3:23-28) – the very antithesis of what God had determined to accomplish. He even chose the disdained of this world “so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:29). To believe that we are somewhat responsible for keeping our salvation works against His intentions. Yes, we are commanded to work hard, but God should get the entire credit even for this, as Paul affirmed:
• But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Cor. 15:10)
Although we play an instrumental role in our salvation and remaining saved, it’s all about Him and His guarantees. He promised that He would bring His saving work in our lives “to completion” (Philip. 1:6). This means that once we’re His, we remain His.
The Bible assures us that we are forgiven once and for all:
• "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant…For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:17)
This guarantee is reiterated throughout the Bible. The promise that He “will remember their sins no more" reinforces the promise that there is no longer anything that can separate us from Him. Consequently, Paul affirmed that there will never be any condemnation for His people (Romans 8:1).
5. NO BASIS FOR ANY INDICTMENT:
We are no longer under the law but under grace. This is because the requirements of the law have already been fulfilled in us through the Cross. The law demanded death for our transgressions, and Christ paid that price by dying for us,
• Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15)
To suggest that we can loose our salvation is to say that the law requires us to die twice for our sins. It also suggests that Christ’s death wasn’t adequate for us. Instead, there is no basis for any charge that can potentially separate us from our Savior. Besides, He promised that He will work all things together for good on our behalf (Rom. 8:28). However, if falling from grace was a real actuality, then Christ failed to work all things together for our good.
6. NO BASIS FOR ANY TRUST IN SELF:
We mustn’t trust in ourselves to keep our salvation. Instead, it’s something that God guarantees for us (1 Peter 1:5; Phil. 1:6). He tells us to not worry about anything (Phil. 4:6-7), even our own salvation. To trust in ourselves to keep our faith is an affront to God and His gift:
• This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD…But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.” (Jeremiah 17:5-7)
Trusting in self is antithetical to trusting in God. When I saw people leaving the faith, I determined that this wasn’t going to happen to me. I wouldn’t let it happen. However, my Savior graciously, yet painfully, showed me that I couldn’t even keep my own faith. It was far beyond my ability (John 15:4-5; 2 Cor. 3:5). I had to learn to trust in Him. Consequently, when I find my faith under serious attack, I don’t collapse, nor do I futilely determine that this isn’t going to happen to me. Instead, I cry out to the “author and finisher” of my faith to maintain me (Hebrew 12:2). He has taught me to place no confidence in myself (Phil. 3:3), and how liberating this has been! Consequently, my focus is no longer on me but on Him, where it belongs.
Paul warned against the foolishness of starting out by trusting the Lord, only to revert to the human default of placing trust in self (Gal. 3:1-5). He warned that this would alienate us from a trusting and saving relationship with our Lord (Gal. 5:2-4).
There is great joy and liberty in knowing that we are totally in His keeping. Let nothing – no theology or philosophy – get in the way!
Admittedly, there are a number of difficult verses. I would be glad to discuss them with you, preferably on my blog: www. Mannsword.blogspot. com.
Is theology important, or is it as Oprah famously asserted: “God is about a feeling experience, not a believing experience!” Does it truly matter what we believe and think about God, or is it all about an experience of God without the accompanying cognitive material?
In order to examine this question, let’s just look at the ever-contentious question of the Person of Christ – Is He God eternal or was He created and consequently had a beginning? And does it matter if He was always God or was just elevated to the position of “God” in order to die for our sins, as many of the cults maintain? Well, it does matter. Paul asserted that,
• God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Could God have demonstrated His love for us if He had created Christ for the occasion of dying in our place? I don’t think so! If the Christ was merely created, then God could have spoken into existence 100,000 christs every second. Consequently, such a christ dying for me would not convey the love of God. It would have represented no sacrifice on His part – no more than if I told a homeless person, “I want to show my profound love for you, and so I will give you this penny!”
Instead, as the Book of Philippians states, the Christ had emptied Himself of all His heavenly privileges to take on human form and to die for us (Phil. 2:5-7), even while we were His enemies (Rom. 5:9-10). In the process, He willingly lived a life of sorrow (Isaiah 53) and submitted to the worst torture and death for us, who deserved nothing good at all from Him. And He did this, not because He was created for this purpose, but because of a mysterious word we call “love.”
This truth was profoundly revealed to me as I was in the midst of life-controlling depression and panic attacks. Although I desperately wanted to believe that God loved me, in the context of all of my pain and failure, I was unable to experience this. Instead, my experience informed me that life was no more than a freak show, unleashed by a sadistic god for his own twisted amusement. As a stood imploring heaven for its unlikely mercy, I was struck by the revelation that He really did care. We were not objects of entertainment but of love and the most profound concern. I could then perceive that the Creator had actually died for me, becoming my Redeemer, One who is deeply touched by all of my sorrows (Hebrews 4:15; Isaiah 63:7-11).
Tears of joy broke forth. He actually loved me and proved this by voluntarily suffering for me, something that reason and justice alone couldn’t explain. My “believing experience” then morphed into a “feeling experience!” Theology proved itself full of heart and soul.
I think that it was Anselm who stated, “I believe so that I might understand.” It is equally true that “I believe so that I might experience.” Theology might look like a dry stem to the heart that does not see, but to the heart that offers its tears to God, theology also has roots and flowers of the most aromatic fragrance.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Stigmatization with words is merely a prelude for victimization with actions. Name calling may not hurt right now, but is does lead to “sticks and stones.” The continual assault of the State and Media against Christianity has paved the way for victimization. When New York State governor Andrew Cuomo was asked if he found any arguments against same-sex marriage (SSM) compelling, he answered,
• “None,” he said. “There is no answer from the opposition. There really isn’t. Ultimately, it’s, ‘I want to discriminate.’ And that’s anti-New York. It’s anti-American.”
Ed Mechmann of the Archdiocese of New York’s Family Life Office was incredulous and called Cuomo’s remarks,
• “chilling” that the state’s top official would declare such a large segment of the population as “political pariahs.” He warned Catholics of an “impending persecution,” saying that Cuomo has effectively “declared us to be enemies of the state and nation.”
• “In reality, Mr. Cuomo doesn’t just disagree with our arguments, he denies their existence,” said Mechmann on the archdiocese’s blog. “He clearly believes that they are pernicious, beyond the pale of proper discourse, and motivated only by hatred.”
• “That is why he has now declared that we are ‘anti-American’ — that is to say, enemies of our nation,” he continued. “This is legitimately frightening. We all know what the power of the state can do to its enemies,” he added.
Indeed, it is one thing to disagree with the opposition. It’s another to defame them as discriminatory and “anti-American.” I guess that would mean that America had been anti-American up to just a few decades ago, and we then magically found our true American identity. What insanity!
Perhaps even worse is the hypocrisy. Gay marriage is defended by the rationale that it’s unconstitutional to discriminate and stigmatize. However, many of the supporters of SSM show little hesitation about stigmatizing their opposition as “homophobes” and “bigots.” And sadly, it seems that our centers of Power and Influence are content to not raise their voices against this hypocrisy. Where will this hypocrisy lead?
• In July, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan warned that, if experience in other jurisdictions was any indication, believers in the traditional family “will soon be harassed, threatened, and hauled into court for their conviction.” Christians in the UK, Canada, and elsewhere have lost their jobs, been dragged through lengthy “human rights” proceedings, and faced steep fines for questioning the dangerous homosexual lifestyle, declining to facilitate gay “marriages,” or even failing to acknowledge “gay pride” events.
Meanwhile, the dangers of homosexuality and its forceful social promotion are unmistakably obvious:
1. The stats reveal the frightening costs – medically, psychologically, and in terms of substance abuse and suicide.
2. History has ruled decisively against this practice. Although tried in many cultures, it has never persisted in any salutary sense.
3. The world religions have all tried it and have forbidden it.
There seems to be many good reasons to remain reflective about SSM’s social promotion. John J. Davis (Evangelical Ethics) writes of the work of British Anthropologist, J.D. Unwin:
• After a comprehensive study of both Western and non-Western cultures throughout human history, Unwin concluded that the record of mankind “does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it had been absolutely [heterosexually] monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.” Unwin observed that a society’s adoption and maintenance of heterosexual monogamy as a social standard “has preceded all manifestations of social energy, whether that energy be reflected in conquest, in art and sciences, in extension of the social vision, or in the substitution of monotheism for polytheism.” (p. 116)
The Apostle Paul had fittingly warned:
• Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. (1 Cor. 6:18-19)
We are not our own, and sexual promiscuity not only affects us, but also our families, communities and society. Sadly, it might take decades and many lives before Cuomo can begin to see that it’s not a matter of, “I want to discriminate.”
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Dear President Obama,
The USA legal system has always upheld the “ministerial exception” – that we are free to choose our pastors/ministers without the imposition of Federal hiring guidelines – in accordance with the First Amendment’s church-state separation clause:
• Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Removing the “ministerial exception” represents “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. My identity and pride as an American rests upon the fact that American has always insured my right to worship and follow my faith according to the dictates of my conscience. It is because of the First Amendment that our identity as Americans could flourish. It is because of these guarantees that we can all live together in harmony, without worry that one belief system – ie. secularism – might swallow up our liberties. It is these guarantees that allow the various faiths to live together peaceably under one umbrella. It had also been these guarantees that enabled our 13 disparate colonies to form a Union, providing for us the necessary common glue.
Now these liberties seem to be in jeopardy. According to PBS:
• The Obama administration is taking a hard line in the case [Hosanna-Tabor v. Equal Opportunity Commission]. To the dismay of many religious groups, the Justice Department urged the [Supreme] Court to reject the ministerial exception altogether, saying the First Amendment doesn’t offer such special protection.
According to World magazine:
• The Justice Department argued that religious institutions should be treated just like other institutions in matters of hiring. [Leondra] Kruger’s argument shocked the justices in what was already a blockbuster religious freedom case, Hosanna-Tabor v. Equal Opportunity Commission. “This is extraordinary-extraordinary,” Justice Antonin Scalia told Kruger during oral arguments. “There in black and white in the Constitution are special protections for religion.” One of the liberal justices jumped in on Scalia’s side: “I too find this amazing,” said Justice Elena Kagan. (Oct. 22, p.8)
We therefore pray that, for the benefit of all Americans, you will champion the continuation of these rights and privileges that have made America great.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The new New York City public school sex-ed program for 11 years old and up features some sexy visits, like to the local Planned Parenthood offices – just in case you need an abortion and you don’t want your parents to know.
Part of the curriculum includes visiting GoAskAlice.com, a product of the genius of Columbia University. If you are looking for any moral guidance there, you’ll be disappointed. One writer wrote about the permissibility of group sex among couples. Here’s what she got back:
• Dear Reader, You can use your feelings as a gauge — "We all thoroughly enjoy it." That's a pretty positive indicator. Sex among couples has likely gone on since there have been couples, although the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s and 1970s brought an increase in the practice, enjoyment, and acceptance of this and other group sex activities.
In other words, everything is OK among consenting…ah, teenagers. They even have something for everyone – including the joys of phone sex. There is also advice for the virgin who has some concerns and discomforts:
• Since you're a virgin and a woman, you may be feeling discomfort from your hymen. If penetration with fingers is uncomfortable, you can add water-based lube, wait until you're more aroused, and/or tell your boyfriend to slow down or stop! It's difficult, at first, to be open when being intimate, but it's necessary to tell him this so that he can learn how to pleasure you. He probably would want to know if his touch is causing soreness or pain. If you become sore or feel pain, you need to say, "Ouch, that hurts," or "Stop!" and your partner will know to stop. To increase comfort with penetration, your boyfriend can start off with one lubed finger, inserting it gently and slowly. Once you feel comfortable, speed and/or intensity can be increased gradually, or not at all, and/or another finger or two can be added…
If you’re looking for any reasons why it might be preferable to stay a virgin, you won’t find it there. It is all about sexualizing youth, talking about sex as if it can be practiced as casually as drinking a glass of water. Pornography is also OK:
• Many erotic videos are produced (and marketed) to appeal to stereotypically masculine fantasies and desires. Erotic entertainment geared at getting women viewers off is less common. Which is unfortunate, since plenty of gals do enjoy watching sexy images.
There seems to be little concern about the dangers of pornography, as one recent study warned:
• October 20, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Recent research indicates that porn use can cause sexual dysfunction by numbing the body’s response to normal sexual pleasure, according to a report published in Psychology Today. Marnia Robinson…explains that the brain can become desensitized to dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates the body’s reaction to sexual pleasure, through the kind of over-stimulation readily available via the internet’s porn culture.”
“Alice” seems to be dismissive of anything that might interfere with sexual acting out, as long as it’s conducted in medically “safe” ways. For someone wanting to add a second woman in bed alongside of his wife, Alice answered:
• As the song goes, "Come and knock on our door... We've been waiting for you...Where the kisses are hers and hers and his…Three's company too." For many in the bedroom, three (or more) may be a welcomed crowd. For others, two is the better number. Sometimes, just sharing a threesome fantasy with your sexual partner (without actually playing it out) can be fulfilling. You asked whether you should ask your wife if she wants to try a threesome or just let the whole subject ride. Ultimately, that's up to you.
This is the rule of thumb – the one sacred rule – “Ultimately, that's up to you.” Whatever feels right is right – 20 sexual partners, adultery, perhaps even pedophilia, although Alice seems to stop short of advocating anything that might get her in trouble with the law. Nevertheless, this website is clearly the product of our permiscuous age. It shows little concern about tomorrow and the long range impact on children.
Meanwhile, in The Case for Marriage, Linda Waite & Maggie Gallagher sound the alarm about alternative families. For one thing, monogamous marriage provides great protection for the woman:
• A large body of research shows that marriage is much less dangerous for women than cohabitors…1987-88 National Survey of Families and Households: married people are much less likely than cohabiting couples to say that arguments between them and their partners had become physical in the past year (4% of married people compared to 13% of the cohabiting). (155)
Child abuse soars in alternative family structures:
• A preschooler living with one biological parent and one step-parent was forty times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with two natural parents. (159).
Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg can’t understand the fuss that parents are making at the prospect of seeing their children further sexualized. Perhaps he’s spent too much time with “Go Ask Alice?”
George Washington warned, “"If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." Sheep are barely aware that they are being led to the slaughter. We seem to be equally unaware that our “freedom of speech” is being slowly pulled away like Utah’s vanishing salt flats. Just a few decades ago, churches were threatened with loosing their tax-exempt status if they spoke out on political issues. Now, people are loosing their jobs:
• A Christian property manager in England has been demoted, taken a £14,000/year pay cut and narrowly avoided the sack for commenting on Facebook that Christian churches should not be forced to participate in same-sex union ceremonies. 54-year-old Adrian Smith was declared by a tax-funded housing trust [the Trafford Housing Trust (THT)] to be guilty of “gross misconduct” after he called allowing same-sex ceremonies in churches “an equality too far” in a Facebook comment thread.
• Writing on his own Facebook page, which was not accessible to anyone other than his Facebook friends, Smith had responded to a BBC news item about a controversial new law that would allow churches to conduct same-sex union ceremonies. Asked if his comment meant that he did not approve of the proposed law, Smith wrote, “No, not really. I don’t understand why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church. The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women. If the State wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex then that is up to the State; but the State shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.”
As a result of this horrible transgression, the THT removed Smith from his managerial position that paid £35,000 per year, reemploying him as a £21,000/ year “adviser.” The THT justified this demotion in a,
• Statement to the BBC, saying that its updated code of conduct “clearly set out what use employees can make of social networking sites such as Facebook…Some three months after this new code was issued, Mr. Smith, without our authority or knowledge and on a Facebook page that identified him as a manager at Trafford Housing Trust, made comments that were found, by a full disciplinary investigation in which he had trade union representation, to be in breach of the company’s code of conduct and other policies.”
Understandably, Smith has charged that this policy and demotion violates his rights to free speech, a right that all democracies recognize as essential to accountability and the maintenance of a free society. Such politically correct policies can eventually stifle any speech. If we can no longer express our opinion – even off the job – that “the State shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience,” what will be next? Perhaps the State can then impose a ban on speaking against abortion, pollution, corruption, pedophilia, adultery, or even against taxes. Where can the line be drawn?
Smith didn’t even say that homosexuality is “sinful” or that the State shouldn’t marry same-sex couples; he didn’t say anything that could be construed as offensive. Well, I guess the State or the Press might construe that speaking in favor of the autonomy of the church is offensive. However, if this talk is offensive, then why not also talk against the freedom of religion? This too can be construed as offensive, and certainly the talk and actions against Smith can be construed in this manner.
“Offensiveness” can not be used as a standard to silence speech. Any words can be taken as an offense. My wife had innocently asked someone, “Which country do you come from?” He responded back, “You’re bigoted to ask me such a question!”
The Press says many “offensive” things. They charge one person with lying, another with saying something foolish. They criticize one policy in favor of another. They favor one candidate over another. Perhaps the State should impose some policies against such “offensive” speech. It comes down to this – if we are a democrat, we will find a republican’s speech offensive and visa versa. Perhaps instead, we need to learn to tolerate speech that might feel a bit offensive!
Why aren’t the various media outlets speaking out against the many encroachments upon free speech? Free speech is the air they breathe! I’m sure that the ACLU and the media would be crying bloody murder if anyone curtailed their right to speak in favor of abortion, even though it represents the murder of the unborn – a real offense! Perhaps because it’s only their opponents’ free speech that is curtailed?
I think that they would do well to recall what Pastor Martin Niemoller – he had been sent to a concentration camp by Hitler in 1937 – famously lamented,
• First the Nazis went after the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not object. Then they went after the trade-unionists, but I was not a trade-unionist so I did not object. Then they came after me, and there was no one left to object.
We have forgotten how delicate our freedom of speech remains. It is a flower that requires constant nurturing. Carol Swain, Vanderbilt professor of political science and law, warns:
• Many of us have allowed pressure to silence our voices. We’ve questioned our own values, hung our heads in shame, and suspended our common sense…We watch passively as government takes control and eradicates liberties from us and our children.
Our third president, Thomas Jefferson added this warning:
• "We have the greatest opportunity the world has ever seen, as long as we remain honest — which will be as long as we can keep the attention of our people alive. If they once become inattentive to public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors would all become wolves."
We are told to contend earnestly for our faith (Jude 3). This necessarily includes the right to speak our faith. Meanwhile, we are told that we are no longer a “Christian nation.” Maybe not, but this assertion is being used to undermine our First Amendment protections, one step at a time. Our forth president, James Madison, also warned:
• "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."
I think we are seeing this today.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Another teacher’s head is on the chopping-block. This head belongs to Viki Knox, a veteran of two decades in the New Jersey Public School system. What horrible crime did she commit? According to The Star Ledger,
• Knox, 49, an ordained minister in the Clark church, wrote on her Facebook page last week that homosexuality was a “perverted spirit” and a “sin” that “Breeds like cancer.”
• Union schools Superintendent Patrick Martin said that the district is investigating and would take “all appropriate action.”
It seems that cutting off her head is within the realm of “all appropriate action.” Let’s look at what this means. It means that free speech can not be exercised, even when it comes from one’s sincerely held religious beliefs and even when it constitutes a caring warning. It is a well established fact that the gay lifestyle only comes at a great price – a greatly lowered life expectancy, disease issues, mental health concerns, and even heightened rates of substance abuse and suicide. (Perhaps instead, parents should be bringing lawsuits against the schools for encouraging such a lifestyle well known to be self-destructive!)
It should also mean that speaking against other destructive behaviors should not be tolerated. After all, why should speaking against homosexuality be proscribed and not speaking against adultery, theft, bullying, bigamy, pedophilia, incest, lying and even murder? If our right to speak against the dangers of homosexuality are retracted, why not also our right to speak against bullying or drug use? Of course, this double-standard is absurd!
The only question worthy of consideration is whether or not sanity and reason will cave in before the pressure groups. The Ledger reports that,
• Garden State Equality, a gay-rights group, plans to hold a rally…to publicly demand Knox’s firing.
Perhaps a little “Gay Pride” might be in order. If they are truly so proud of their lifestyle – and ironically, Knox had been responding to Gay Pride initiatives within the school system – then they should demonstrate their pride through a willingness to engage in an open exchange of ideas instead of a show of intolerance towards anyone who objects to their agenda.
You just don’t read these things from Western academicians. It's just not politically correct. I just had to copy this article verbatim:
In the West we are doing our best to destroy our Christian heritage but in China, Chinese intellectuals are coming around to the view that it is precisely this heritage that has made the West so successful.
Former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, in a review in the Sunday Times of Niall Ferguson's new book, ‘Civilisation: The West and the Rest’, carries a quote from a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in which he tries to account for the success of the West, to date.
He said: “One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.
“We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had.
“Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system.
“But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful.
“The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”
Note the source. It isn't from a religious leader, or some religious think-tank. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is an instrument of the Chinese Communist government which spends a not inconsiderable amount of time and money persecuting Christians and is officially atheistic.
If this is the conclusion it has come to, maybe Europe needs to reconsider whether it mightn't be an idea to encourage rather than eradicate Christianity.
Incidentally, just to drive home the point, Lawson also refers to this data point in Ferguson's book: Wenzhou, the Chinese city which is rated as the most entrepreneurial in the country, is also home to 1,400 churches.
Lawson refers to a quote in the book from a prominent Wenzhou business leader, a Mr Hanping Zhang, who argues that “an absence of trust had been one of the main factors holding China back; but he feels he can trust his fellow Christians because he knows that they will be honest in their dealings with him”.
It has long been accepted that Christianity is one of the core elements of Western civilisation; it is too little understood that it is also one of the secrets of the stunning success of that civilisation.
I don't think that we should loose focus of the fact that Christ has transformed civilization, especially as we endure our own culture's virulent attacks against our faith and church.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Evolutionists try to prove their position by asserting that common features – morphological, chemical, and genetic – indicate common descent, in other words, macro-evolution. They attempted to do this with the fossil record. However, this record has stubbornly resisted efforts to conform it to evolutionary orthodoxy. Here are just a few confessions by noted evolutionists:
The late Harvard luminary, Stephen Jay Gould admitted: “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as a trade secret of palaeontology…The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with the idea that they gradually evolved:
1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when they disappear…
2. Sudden appearance. In any local area a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and ‘fully formed.’” (John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker, 111)
Likewise, noted evolutionist Mark Ridley, confessed,
• No real evolutionist…uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation.”
Dr. Gareth J. Nelson, American Museum of Natural History, also admitted,
• It is a mistake to believe that even one fossil species… can be demonstrated to have been ancestral to another.
Not to be discouraged by this massive disappointment, they have sought out commonalities in other areas to support their belief in common descent. However, instead of consistently finding commonalities within one family, it seems that the commonalities are so broadly distributed that “common descent” can’t explain the similarities.
One example of this is bioluminescence, the ability to produce light. Fireflies are just one of 40 species that can do this. Malone and Vett explain,
• From single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates to glow worms found in caves; from deep-sea fish to googly-eyed glass squids; there is a vast array of creatures with an ability to mix varying forms of luciferin and luciferase to produce light at will. It turns out that each of these creatures uses a slightly different variation of the key chemicals to produce light. One would think that closely-related organisms should have similar luciferins and liciferases, while creatures further apart on the evolutionary sequence would have much different versions of such chemicals. NO SUCH PATTERN EXISTS. Thus according to those who have extensively studied this subject, “bioluminescence is estimated to have evolved independently at least 40 times.” (Inspired Evidence)
It is difficult enough to believe that this ability to produce light – with its necessary structures and complex chemicals – could have evolved at all. However, evolutionists are forced to insist that this same ability magically evolved “independently 40 different times.” It is wildly improbable that chance mutations could have accounted for these common features.
Whatever we might think about this improbability, these observations and many others like them demonstrate that commonalities do not prove common descent. The evolutionist can’t logically have it both ways. Either commonalities do prove common descent or they do not prove common descent, which they admittedly don’t! However, evolutionists have construed it so that “heads I win; tails you loose.” They’ve even made up a term for when common features fail to reflect common descent – “convergent evolution.” Sounds scientific, doesn’t it!
If light-making occurred independently 40 different times, perhaps all of the other commonalities invoked as evidence for common descent also arose independently! If the commonalities do not unequivocally prove common descent, this line of reasoning should be abandoned. However, this will not happen. It’s just too necessary for their argument.
There’s another interesting feature about bioluminescence. Malone and Vett observe,
• A firefly’s luminescence is 88% efficient while the light produced by the best luminescence reaction developed by mankind is a mere 23% efficient.
The wonders of evolution!
Saturday, October 15, 2011
(Photo: David Singer)
Many fear that they have committed the “unpardonable sin” and have passed beyond the hope of salvation. Usually, they cite these chilling words of our Lord:
• And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32)
This passage raises several questions. What does it mean to speak against the Holy Spirit (the blaspheme against the Holy Spirit) and why is it unpardonable? At first glance, this seems peculiar. Why would speaking against the Spirit be unpardonable while speaking against the Son is pardonable? Perhaps it is because speaking against the Son might have been done in ignorance (1 Tim. 1:13). However, speaking against the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit – in this case, casting out demons – could hardly have been done in ignorance. Instead, such denials of the Spirit’s Jesus-attesting miracles could only arise out of a hard heart that refuses the light. Consistent with this, the Jamison, Fausset, Brown Commentary reads:
• In charging Jesus with being in league with hell they were displaying beforehand a malignant determination to shut their eyes to all evidence, and so, bordering upon, and in spirit committing, the unpardonable sin.
I would add to this that their refusal to regard the light – the evidence of the Spirit’s miraculous workings – was a persistent refusal. Right before this, “Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus,” they assailed Him for healing on the Sabbath, and then “went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:9-14). Clearly, all the evidence in the world would make no difference to them. It seems apparent that God would now allow them to go their own way and to reap the consequences of their refusal to be influenced by the evidence (Rom. 1:18-32).
However, could this frightful fate also pertain to those who want the truth and salvation? The sage commentator Matthew Henry put it this way:
• But humble and conscientious believers, at times are tempted to think they have committed the unpardonable sin, while those who have come the nearest to it, seldom have any fear about it. We may be sure that those who indeed repent and believe the gospel, have not committed this sin, or any other of the same kind; for repentance and faith are the special gifts of God, which he would not bestow on any man, if he were determined never to pardon him; and those who fear they have committed this sin, give a good sign that they have not. The trembling, contrite sinner has the witness in himself that this is not his case.
For someone who wants God’s salvation, Scripture assures them that if they seek, they will find. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:13). Any who come to Jesus will not be cast aside but will be raised up in the last day (John 6:37). Any who confess their sins will be forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:9). In fact, there is no instance in Scripture where someone sought forgiveness and was turned away.
We find that forgiving the greatest unworthiness, the worst of sins or the most plenteous of sins represents no obstacle to our Lord. He even seems to delight in saving the least deserving of people. He claims that He purposely choose this world’s rejects (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Paul had been the worst of sinners. He not only killed Christians but forced them to denounce their faith in Christ. (I can think of nothing worse!):
• Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Tim. 1:15-16)
Paul explained that his life should serve as an example to any who might fear that they are un-savable. If Paul could be saved, then none need fear that they couldn’t be saved.
King Manasseh was perhaps the worst of Israel’s kings. He ruled for 55 years. If anyone had committed sins that made him ineligible for salvation, it was he:
• Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols), therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah...” (2 Kings 21:10-12).
However, the Assyrians captured Manasseh and threw him into prison:
• Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God (2 Chron. 33:12-13).
God had given King David everything, but that wasn’t enough for him. Despite the fact that he had numerous wives, he took another’s wife and then killed her husband. David had to suffer greatly for these sins, but God gladly forgave him.
Israel had consistently performed worse than other nations and became “more corrupt than they in all your ways” (Ezekiel 16:47). Nevertheless, God promised to restore them completely (Ezek. 16:59-63) even though they deserved nothing from their God.
The worst of sinners can come before God with the assurance that if they confess, they will be forgiven (1 John 1:9). One such sinner cried out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” and received mercy (Luke 18:13).
Forgiveness and the mercy of God do not depend on our worthiness, but upon our willingness to humble ourselves by confessing our unworthiness, as Jesus explained:
• For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
These things are despised by those who have hardened their hearts:
• The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)
They hate the light and will crucify the light. However, for those who God is drawing, the light is appealing (John 3:19-20), and its aroma is alluring (2 Cor. 2:14-17). These will cry out to the Lord, and He will hear them.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
At first glance, it might appear that Jesus was teaching us to allow whomever to do whatever they want to us – doormat theology:
• But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:38-41)
However, I think that there are many reasons that we shouldn’t take this teaching literally. If we did take it literally, others could coerce to commit sin, something that Jesus would never have allowed. Besides, it doesn’t seem that Jesus had taken this teaching literally. He did not allow Himself to be used as a doormat. He threw money-changers out of the Temple (Mat. 11:15), He forbade Mary from touching Him (John 20:17, and He corrected all who argued against Him. In fact, nothing that Jesus did was compelled by the whims of others. Instead, everything was carried out according to divine plan.
As a substitute public school teacher, I struggled with this teaching. I was fearful that I might be disobedient if I didn’t take it literally. Perhaps I was required to “turn the other cheek” when the students misbehaved and even when they assaulted their fellow students. However, it eventually became clear to me that this passage required some serious interpretive reflection. If I allowed the students to kill each other, it would not only bring censure upon me but also upon Christ! Clearly, Jesus couldn’t have intended that we take this teaching literally. Besides, if we did, we would be violating many other passages about the necessity of justice and punishment and even how we were supposed to rear our children:
• Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent--the LORD detests them both. (Proverbs 17:15)
• Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)
In fact, I found many teachings that ruled against doormat theology. Ultimately, we are supposed to be servants of Christ and not of man:
• You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. (1 Cor. 7:23)
What a relief! Clearly, Jesus’ difficult teaching had to be understood figuratively, according to the context. Jesus admitted that everything that He taught came in the form of a parable. If this is the case, then we have to understand His teachings in light of this fact. Even within the immediate context, Jesus’ teaching couldn’t possibly have been intended as literal:
• If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:28-30)
Clearly, no one takes this teaching to gouge out eyes and to cut off hands literally. If we did, we would all be rendered handless and eyeless. Instead, Jesus seemed to be teaching that sin is so lethal that if necessary, it would be better to remove these than to enter hell.
I began to try to apply this understanding to the subsequent teaching about turning-the-other-cheek. Perhaps Jesus was teaching that if would be better to offer the cheek and to go the extra mile rather than to seek revenge for the injustice? This understanding would then match His teaching on eyes and hands.
But where does “revenge” enter into the picture? Jesus was teaching about the misapplication of an essential Old Testament principle:
• You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39)
The “eye for eye” principle was a reflection of the wisdom of God. It required that the punishment fit the crime, although not literally (Exodus 21:23-27). However, it seems that this judicial principle was wrongly appropriated by the rich and powerful to justify revenge on their enemies. Therefore, Jesus taught that they should not “resist an evil person” in this manner. Instead, it would be better to allow oneself to be the object of injustice rather than retaliating vengefully.
More than twenty years later, the Apostle Paul commented on this very teaching:
• Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." [Proverbs 25] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
Many Christians have mistakenly taken this as another example of doormat theology. According to their understanding, we have to allow ourselves, our family and our church to be victimized by any abuser. They also wrongly understand “God’s wrath” and His vengeance as something that will only right the wrongs in the next life. However, Paul explained that “God’s wrath” was also to be exercised in this life:
• Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves…For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent (“revenger” KJV) of WRATH to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4)
The reason that we are not supposed to take revenge is because our Lord has instituted another institution to exercise His revenge and “wrath” upon evil. This frees us up to love and to embody grace, while the criminal justice system exercises His justice and wrath.
Practically speaking, this means that if we are victimized, we shouldn’t take justice into our own hands but avail ourselves of His ordained institution of justice. Do we forgive those who have hurt us? Yes, but we also seek justice. If we fail to seek justice against a rapist, we fail to love our community, which is left with a rapist on the loose. We would also bring disrepute to Christ. Instead, we are to show off His surpassing wisdom by making proper use of the institutions He has put in place to deal with injustice.
Paul gave us another important interpretive clue. He stated that the ethics, which he was illuminating, should be “right in the eyes of everybody” (Romans 12:17). It should have the ring of wisdom and virtue. If our interpretation makes us look ridiculous, enabling others to trample upon us and our community, perhaps we have failed to understand the Biblical teaching properly.
Do I punish students who misbehave? Of course, but this enables me to also show them love and forgiveness. One Christian mistakenly didn’t want to press charges against her assaulter, thinking that she would be unfaithful to her Lord if she did. However, forgiveness and justice aren’t in opposition. Instead, they are complimentary. When we pursue justice, we also love, not only society, but also the assaulter. He needs to see the consequences of his behavior. Failing to seek justice might just be another form of enablement for him to continue in crime.
Doormat theology prevents us from protecting ourselves and our families and also makes us look ridiculous. It suggests that when we forgive, we must also restore the relationship with our rapist. However, the forgiveness that brings restoration must be accompanied by a genuine repentance:
• If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him. (Luke 17:3-4)
Jesus taught that the forgiveness that entails restoration of relationship requires repentance. This might mean that the abused wife should not accept her abuser husband back until he has repented and perhaps also has shown concrete signs of a true repentance. Nevertheless, she must forgive him in her heart and in her prayers. Similarly, Jesus died for all and wanted all to be restored, but restoration (reconciliation) would not become a reality until the sinner came in faith and repentance.
Doormat theology represents a gross distortion of Jesus’ teaching and prevents us from walking in the light and living a balanced and wise Christianity.
Today, Christians are very divided about raising their voice in the public arena. Some see our calling as simply a matter of preaching the Gospel and performing works of love. Others claim that we are also to be prophetic, calling individuals and groups to repent of their sins – that we are called to be the “salt and the light,” standing for justice and against injustice, virtue against sin. I think that the words of General Jerry Boykin well illustrate the divide.
I am copying them below in order to provoke conversation within the church regarding this very key question – “Who are we and to what are we called?”
• One of America’s most seasoned war generals expressed frustration at the silence of Christian churches as the U.S. military’s ban on open homosexuality fell to a repeal effort earlier this year.
• Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin described at the Values Voter Summit on Saturday the exasperation of pro-family leaders in Washington who found themselves abandoned by church leaders unwilling to make a stand for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
• “John McCain kept turning to Tony Perkins saying, ‘Where’s the church? Where are the spiritual leaders?” said Boykin. “The answer was, they were silent. The church was silent.”
• Besides a large number of military chaplains, few church leaders in America spoke up publicly against the Obama administration’s campaign last year to pass the repeal in Congress.
• Notably, while the Vatican had released a statement in 1992 supporting a ban on open homosexuality in the military, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops remained silent on the repeal effort, leaving military Archbishop Timothy Broglio to defend the ban alone. When questioned on the controversy in December 2010, Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl demurred, saying “there isn’t a specific Catholic Church position” on the issue.
• Boykin, a former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, told his conservative audience, “Christians have to rise up like a mighty army to be the salt and light.”
• “Today, the church has lost its moral authority. The church has ceded its authority to the ACLU, and CODEPINK and MoveOn.org. They’re the ones with the real influence today,” he said. The veteran pointed to Europe as a good example of what will happen if America continues to lose sight of its identity as “founded on Judaeo-Christian principles.”
• “Europe is hopelessly lost,” he said. “Folks, this could happen in America if we continue to be asleep, if the church does not rise up. The church has to get back to the fundamentals ... of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
• “We have to stop compromising on the gospel of Christ because ... we’re afraid somebody’s gonna be offended. Let me tell you something: when the Gospel of Jesus Christ offends people, that’s exactly when they need to hear it.”
What do you think?
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Since Hitler and his attempt to create the master-race, evolutionists have desperately distanced themselves from any idea of eugenics and the social application of Darwinism. Understandably, they claim the evolution says nothing about morality – it’s strictly about the physical world and not the moral world.
Although it is true that evolutionists no longer try to derive morality from evolution, this certainly wasn’t the case prior to Hitler. But rather than reciting the many evolution-driven eugenics programs, I’d rather concentrate on the philosophical/moral implications of this naturalistic/atheistic theory. Although evolution might not directly dictate a certain set of ghoulish morals, it does a lot to undermine Judeo-Christian values. These uphold the qualitative distinction between humanity and the rest of the animal world.
According to the Bible, human life is sacred because we are created specially in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and have His attributes (Ephesians 4:23-24). Western civilization has therefore criminalized anything that threatens the sanctity of human life. Meanwhile, animals can be captured, eaten and even stuffed without threat of indictment for murder or kidnapping.
All of this is threatened by evolution, which has a very different understanding of humanity. In place of the absolute distinction between humanity and the animal world, evolution posits a continuum of common descent. We therefore might be an advanced and intelligent animal, but we are still no more than an animal. However, even the idea of humanity as “advanced” is challenged by evolutionary ethicists. For them, value is not a matter of belonging to the Homo Sapien club, but in our intelligence and functionality. Consequently, those who have less intelligence should not be valued as others. Also, those humans who are dysfunctional might not have the value of a horse or a pig.
David P. Barash, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington goes even further. He demands that reproductive facilities should work towards creating a race of human/chimpanzee hybrids, but, he admits, only because it would offend Christians:
• Should geneticists and developmental biologists succeed once again in joining human and nonhuman animals in a viable organism, it would be difficult and perhaps impossible for the special pleaders [Christians] to maintain the fallacy that Homo Sapiens are uniquely disconnected from the rest of life.
Barash is correct that the creation of half-humans would undermine the last vestiges of our sanctity-of-human-life ethics. We would be confronted with many insolvable questions: “Could we marry half-humans? Could we put them into a zoo or create an army of them to work our fields and factories? Could we make them into sex-objects? What rights might they have?”
Unhinged from our Judeo-Christian foundation, these questions could only be answered arbitrarily by society. Society would then determine who had value, who should live and who should die, who could be enslaved and who should rule, who should enjoy civil rights and who shouldn’t.
Even without Barash’s half-humans, naturalistic evolution has begun to erode our moral foundations. If values are no longer transcendent – if they aren’t derived from God but from pragmatic and materialistic considerations – the essential equality of humanity can no longer be supported. We believe that humanity possesses inestimable value because of the Transcendent – our relationship to our Creator. However if our value and rights are no longer based upon the Transcendent, but upon material considerations, then there is no basis for a humane quality of life and even for the Bill of Rights.
If all we have is the material world, as the naturalist maintains, then humans must be seen and evaluated through this grid. From the perspective of this lens, people are very different. Some will be deemed a positive influence on society, others an absolute drain. From the strictly materialistic perspective, there is no basis from which those who “drain” have any right to our respect or protections or even life. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche noted that “equality” is a Biblical idea:
• Another Christian concept, no less crazy: the concept of equality of souls before God. This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights.” (Will to Power)
Nietzsche was correct. However, our culture has been so extensively influenced by Christian ideals that the evolutionist fails to see that these values are insupportable apart from the Bible. Despite all their assertions otherwise, the communist/atheist nations all stripped their citizens of their basic human rights.
The inevitable consequences of socially-based morally-relative value systems are deeply troubling. Historian Rodney Stark offers a telling portrait of human rights from a non-sanctity-of-life orientation:
• Classical philosophy regarded mercy and pity as pathological emotions—defects of character to be avoided by all rational men. Since mercy involves providing unearned help or relief, it was contrary to justice.
Consequently, in Rome, the gladiator was regarded as less than human. Historian Anthony Kamm writes:
• Each gladiator was seen as ‘crude, loathsome, doomed, lost…a man utterly debased by fortune, a slave, a man altogether without worth or dignity, almost without humanity. (The Romans)
No wonder the spectator would customarily require that the victor slay the vanquished, having proven himself utterly valueless and undeserving of life. These games were eventually abolished by the Christian emperors Theodosius 1 [378-395 AD] and his son Honorius  in the East.
In India, the widower had no value apart from her husband. She was therefore expected to throw herself on his funeral pyre. This practice however was abolished with the advent of Christianity.
Materialistic, naturalistic evolution makes us into hypocrites. Take for example the psychotherapist who knows that he must treat his clients with respect (unconditional positive regard) if he is going to have any “success” with them. If he disrespects them as the “dysfunctional” and needy people he sees before him, as his materialistic philosophy requires, he will loose them. He therefore must treat them with respect, although he doesn’t think respect.
However, the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. Evolution in its denial or disregard of God is morally relativistic. According to evolutionary naturalism, every thing just happens. Morality also just happens as a result of our genes, socialization and pragmatic choices. The renowned atheistic ethicist Peter Singer wrote:
• When we reject belief in a god we must give up the idea that life on this planet has some preordained meaning. Life as a whole has no meaning. Life began, as the best available theories tell us, in a chance combination of gases; it then evolved through random mutations and natural selection. (Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, Christina and Fred Sommers, 500)
According to Singer, life not only has no meaning, it consequently has no absolute moral truths. Such a conclusion is inevitable. In order for a moral to be absolute, it has to be unchanging, universal and authoritative. Clearly, if it changes from one day to the next, it can’t be absolute. If it changes from England to Angola, it also can’t be universal and consequently absolute.
At this point, a small minority of evolutionists will claim that absolute morality can be based upon our unchanging and universal DNA. However, this formulation has many problems – “Why human DNA and not swine DNA?...Why today’s DNA and not the DNA that we might have in a million years (Let’s be progressive!)?...And what if we chemically alter our DNA?...And why should our DNA be authoritative?”
Absolute morality must also be authoritative. Some will plead an impersonal godless karma as a law that must be obeyed, like the law of gravity. However, the laws of physics aren’t authoritative. They don’t require us to obey them. We are therefore able to manipulate gravity in a way to bypass its “judgment.” We can build airplanes or go to places where gravity doesn’t exert any force. However, moral laws are different. If we take a drug to numb our conscience when we kill someone, we do not evade the authority of the moral law. Murder is still absolutely wrong whether we take the drug or not, and whether we feel guilty or not.
As Singer understands, all of these necessary qualities of moral absolutes require God. Otherwise, we are simply left to ourselves to choose our own values.
Here is the hypocrisy – Without God, we think moral relativism but judge others as if our judgments are absolute, as if the other party has actually broken a sacred law. This makes us culpable before God. While ignorance is a good excuse, we will not be able to plead ignorance:
• You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things…when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? (Romans 2:1-3)
While we might claim that there are no moral absolutes to break, we judge others as if they have broken moral absolutes. We’ll say things like, “You have no right talking to me this way,” or “You shouldn’t have taken my seat.” When we make such judgments, and we all do, we are acknowledging that there is a higher absolute standard to which we are all accountable.
The naturalistic/atheistic evolutionist often denounces the God of the Bible as a “genocidal tyrant.” Atheist Robert Ingersoll (1833-99) wrote:
• Eternal punishment must be eternal cruelty…and I do not see how any man, unless he has the brain of an idiot, or the heart of a wild beast, can believe in eternal punishment.
However, as a moral relativist who denies moral absolutes, Ingersoll played the hypocrite when he denounced “eternal punishment” as “eternal cruelty,” as if something is wrong with eternal cruelty. But as a moral relativist, he could only say that he personally and subjectively didn’t like the idea of “eternal cruelty.” From his philosophical position, “eternal cruelty” cannot violate any standard or law other than his own feelings. However, by making this indictment against God, he charged that God had violated a moral absolute.
Such an indictment is unfortunate for Ingersoll, who thereby acknowledged that there are absolute standards by which he too could be judged.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The USA legal system has always upheld the “ministerial exception” in accordance with the 1st Amendment’s church-state separation:
• Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Historian Edwin Gaustad explains what this has meant historically:
• Here a double guarantee could be found: first, that government would do nothing to favor religion; second, that government would do nothing to inhibit religion…government would simply keep its hands off. (A Religious History of America, 120)
This upheld the church’s right to hire and fire their ministers without State interference. But how far should this “ministerial exception” extend? Should the church also have this latitude in its selection of music ministers, Sunday school teachers and Christian School teachers? Barry Lynn, an ordained UCC minister and head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, would severely limit the “ministerial exception”:
• I think some religious organizations use this idea of a ministerial exception as a pretext to dismiss people on the basis of their color, their gender, their racial background, or their disability, and that really runs counter to every principle of, I think, morality and every principle of our civil rights system.
Of course, this is a possibility. However, state interference into church matters doesn’t guarantee a more ethical church or a better society. And would we want the State to have increasingly monopolistic powers? Our Founding Fathers had a healthy fear of such power concentrated in the State. Gaustad writes,
• One common thread bound the states together in peace even as it held them together in war: the fear of tyranny, of ALL tyranny, civil or ecclesiastical, foreign or domestic. (115)
State interference in the church would not only be tyrannical, it will also mean the death of the church as we know it. If the church is not free to choose its leadership, then the church can’t remain the church but instead an insipid appendage of our increasingly secularized and tyrannical society.
Would the secularization of every church – many are already quite secularized – improve society? For one thing, there couldn’t have been a United States without strict guarantees against State interference. Few, perhaps none, would have tolerated such a state of affairs. Even the Deists appreciated the role of the church and the Christian religion and wanted to protect them. Gaustad summarizes their stance:
• In the minds of the nation’s founders, liberty in religion was of critical importance to all humankind. Also critical, however, was a commitment to religion on the part of the citizens of the young nation. Washington, Adams, and Jefferson all agreed and in various public addresses asserted that ours was a universe of morality and reason, and a universe in which right would prevail – if not in this life, then in the life beyond. “A future state,” John Adams affirmed in 1823, “will set all aright; without the supposition of a future state I can make nothing of this Universe but a Chaos.” The whole world, without divine justice, would be only “a boyish Fire Work.” Providence sustained, Providence guided, and the future both within history and beyond history rested firmly in the control of a providential and “All Wise Creator.” (127)
In “God of Liberty,” historian Thomas S. Kidd writes:
• Whether evangelical or rationalist, most Patriots assumed that Christianity would, in some sense, be the cornerstone for the preservation of the new American Republic. (112)
In his 1796 Farewell Address, the beloved George Washington reiterated these broadly accepted sentiments:
• Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars…The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” (112)
These sentiments were broadly held. Kidd writes,
• Through the era of the Civil War most Americans would continue to believe that the Christian religion should assist government in lifting people’s moral dispositions, so that they might contribute positively to the freedom of the Republic. Even the skeptical Thomas Jefferson believed that Christianity, in it original purity, ‘is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty. (114)
Christianity is where liberty developed for all people – not just the ruling class – and Christianity is where it has been maintained. In contrast, atheistic secularism, while promising a worker’s paradise, has always taken humanity in the opposite direction. A quick look at Maoist China, the USSR or the Khmer Rouge or any other atheistic state leaves us with no other conclusion. Surprisingly, our nation is taking us down this same path:
• The Obama administration is taking a hard line in the case. To the dismay of many religious groups, the Justice Department urged the [Supreme] Court to reject the ministerial exception altogether, saying the First Amendment doesn’t offer such special protection.
Once the “ministerial exception” is removed, the church will have to conform to all federal hiring guidelines. It will not be able to reject a ministerial candidate based upon religion or lifestyle choices or any other classification that the state might choose to add.
Friday, October 7, 2011
The U.S. Center for Disease Control released a report showing that sexual intercourse is decreasing among young people. What would account for this decease? Perhaps the sex-hype has run its course? On one level, this is surprising in view of the social push to sexualize even the grade-schoolers. However, there are some substantial reasons to possibly account for this turn-around.
In Premarital Sex in America: How Young People Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying, sociologists Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker write that there is a,
• Significant correlation between…monogamy and happiness—between promiscuity and depression…A young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed. (Terrell Clemmons, “Saved Sex,” Salvo Magazine, #18, 42)
Writing from an entirely different perspective, thrice-married Tracy Miller comes down in the same place:
• “[C]asual sex is like recreational heroin—it doesn’t stay recreational for long…That’s due in part to this thing called oxytocin—a bonding hormone that is released when a woman a) nurses her baby and b) has an organism—that will totally mess up her causal-sex game.” It’s why you can be hooking up “with some dude who isn’t even all that great and the next thing you know, you’re totally strung out on him. And you have no idea how it happened. Oxytocin, that’s how it happened.” (42-43)
I don’t know if you can blame it all on a chemical, but the down-side of casual sex is clearly a reality. It’s similar to the downside we experience when we eat that extra bowl of chocolate ice cream. We have a vague idea of the price, but not until we finish licking out the bowl.
It is amazing that there is such a strong correspondence between what we consider moral behavior and the emotional payoffs we derive in the long run as we follow our moral impulses. Perhaps it is not amazing that there is a “Significant correlation between…monogamy and happiness—between promiscuity and depression.” The major religions have all signed on to this fact for centuries. Historians and sociologists have noted the role of monogamy in its support of civilization. In this regards, John Davis writes of the work of British Anthropologist, J.D. Unwin:
• After a comprehensive study of both Western and non-Western cultures throughout human history, Unwin concluded that the record of mankind “does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it had been absolutely [heterosexually] monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.” Unwin observed that a society’s adoption and maintenance of heterosexual monogamy as a social standard “has preceded all manifestations of social energy, whether that energy be reflected in conquest, in art and sciences, in extension of the social vision, or in the substitution of monotheism for polytheism.” (Evangelical Ethics, p. 116)
The extra bowl of ice cream might be tempting, but we have to remind ourselves that there is a price to pay. Jesus warned us to nip sexual sin in the bud of our thought life:
• "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Our Lord gives us these commands out of love, because He knows what’s best for us. Long ago, He had revealed to us the overriding destructiveness of sexual sin:
• Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)
Sexual purity is not just a matter of does-and-don’ts; it’s also a matter of maintaining the sanctity of relationship. When we violate it, it has a way of violating us.