Tim Kaine’s missing Bible pages: Redemption—not celebration—of a lost world.

September 14, 2016 § 1 Comment

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How many pages does your Bible have? Tim Kaine’s is apparently missing a few, specifically everything after the first chapter. From CBS News:

“Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine touted the importance of LGBTQ equality as a campaign issue and recounted his own struggle to reconcile his support for gay rights with his Catholic faith. … The Virginia senator said that while Catholic doctrine is at odds with marriage equality, his interpretation of the Bible celebrates diversity. ‘My church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis who surveys the entire world, including mankind, and said it is very good,’ said Kaine. … ‘Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family? I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it.’”(1)

In Genesis 1:31, God does indeed survey His creation and call it “very good.” In chapter 2, however, we find the clear distinction of male and female and God defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In chapter 3, the “very good” creation from chapter 1 is corrupted by sin’s entrance into the world through man’s disobedience to God. We no longer live in the “very good” world that God created, but a world deviated from God’s very good plan for, among many things, marriage and human relationships, a world that seeks sexual autonomy above just about everything else. As Genesis 2 might have revealed to Tim Kaine if he’d gotten that far, God’s “very good” creation was never intended to include homosexuality and gay marriage. A short-sighted view of Genesis 1 and our current reality of a sinful Genesis 3 world is what Tim Kaine is actually seeking to celebrate in LGBTQ “diversity”.

“Did God REALLY say…?” (Satan, Genesis 3:1)

But thank God there’s more to the story. The chapters that follow Genesis 3, in fact the rest of the Bible, lay out God’s plan to redeem the world from sin, culminating in the sending if His one and only Son to buy us back from our slavery to sin. What we know from considering the whole of Scripture, not just the first chapter, is that He will one day restore all things to “very good.” Until then, we should be a part of redeeming a lost world, not celebrating it.

1) Brown, Erica. “Tim Kaine opens up on reconciling LGBTQ equality, religious faith.” CBS News, 11 Sep. 2016. Web 14 Sep. 2016 (Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tim-kaine-opens-up-on-reconciling-lgbtq-equality-catholic-faith-campaign-2016/)

 

‘Hedge of Protection’ Prayer Gets an Upgrade

August 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

The popular prayer for a “hedge of protection” may be getting an upgrade to stronger materials. Many pastors and missionaries, seeing a higher level of danger both physically and spiritually in today’s culture, are praying for a more substantial means of protection than the hedge, which dates back to the book of Job.

-1x-1“A row of leafy bushes simply doesn’t cut it anymore in today’s world,” said Dale Hill, a pastor and structural engineer in Bakersfield, CA. “At our church, we’ve started to pray actual fences. Wood or vinyl at least. When we feel really spiritually oppressed, we go for steel-reinforced concrete barriers and the like.”

Julian Deever, who leads worship at Hillside E-Free in Denver, is trying a more transparent approach. “We’ve actually constructed sturdy plexiglass cages, like the one surrounding our drummer, for our entire worship team and pastoral staff. Take that, Satan!”

Denise Stewalski, a prayer warrior who owns ToughTree Landscaping in Chicago, doesn’t think Christians need to abandon the traditional hedge concept just yet. “There are some very sturdy bushes available to pray around your pastors, missionaries, and loved ones. Junipers, for instance, make pretty formidable barriers, and the reasons most homeowners hate them make them a great option. The roots are tough, they’re prickly to the touch, low maintenance, and they’re usually full of spiders and lost baseballs. I’d like to see the Devil try to get through a Juniper hedge.”

“We also have a sale on them this weekend,” she added.

What many Christians see as an issue over what a “hedge” is made of, some have a greater faith in the One who plants it. “If God puts a hedge of protection around you, the kind of shrubbery doesn’t matter. You are safe!” says Ellen Green, head of Horticultural Ministries at Park Forest Chapel in Memphis, TN.

If God’s ideal place for Adam and Eve was a garden, should we worry that His “hedge of protection” won’t protect us? Maybe we’ll be just fine among the hydrangeas.

Science and Religion Bowing to the Trans-Agenda

August 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

Our culture is clearly trending transgender. But it’s interesting how society seems itchy to remake itself by blurring gender distinctions in other ways, specifically science and religion, to conform to the demands of the transgender revolution.

IN NEUROSCIENCE: “Eminent brain expert Professor Gina Rippon said the pop-psychology theory that the sexes are as different as alien races – Men from Mars and Women from Venus – is a delusion driven by sexist prejudice.” (From this Daily Mail article)

Despite scientific consensus that indicates boys and girls’ brains are different from birth, Professor Rippon argues such studies “are ‘neurotrash’ which simply reflect the bias of researchers.” Rather, boys and girls change their thinking by how they are raised, she says.

It’s certainly fine to challenge scientific consensus, as long as you do so scientifically (this article doesn’t describe her research enough to know if she does), and it’s certainly true that bias plays a part in our conclusions. But she also must challenge our common experience as parents, where we can observe boys and girls interacting with other kids a certain way, or playing a certain way, long before parents have a chance to buy them G.I. Joes or Barbie dolls or otherwise nurture them into a particular gender role. She must also challenge the Word of God, which explains that men and women are distinct and complimentary creatures with equal value but differing roles. We can’t expect a secular movement to regard Scripture, but it’s Scripture that corresponds with what we experience and what we’ve discovered through science, that is, up until the transgender revolution.

IN RELIGION: Here comes the question from a Rabbi, who claims to have figured out what we’ve all mistakenly thought for millennia, happily coinciding with the transgender revolution: Is God transgender? (From The New York Times)

Rabbi Mark Sameth explains that “the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender.” The term YHWH, he says, “was Hebrew for ‘He/She.’ Counter to everything we grew up believing, the God of Israel — the God of the three monotheistic, Abrahamic religions to which fully half the people on the planet today belong — was understood by its earliest worshipers to be a dual-gendered deity.”

God refers to Himself as “Father” and refers to the second Person of the Trinity as His Son. However, God is spirit and therefore has no biological sex, and we can’t apply gender to Him the same way either. Scott Eric Alt provides a good response to Rabbi Sameth’s claim at Patheos:

“Not dual-gendered, Rabbi Sameth: non-gendered. God is not both male and female; he is neither male nor female. Pronouns, of course, do have gender—for gender, properly, is a grammatical construct—but it behooves us to not get excited and jiggly and read our agendas into the fact that some pronoun needs to be applied to God. That a pronoun has gender should not lead us to suspect that God has a gender, or multiple genders, or is transgendered, or is gender fluid, or whatever else your agenda compels you to want to say about God. God is transcendent.”

Alt also counters Sameth’s view of certain passages that to Sameth seem to support a transgender view. Alt’s post is a good apologetics resource, so read the whole thing.

IN THE END: Pandering to the transgender revolution means both scientists and religious leaders must abandon sound reasoning and long-held doctrine to do it, resulting in new definitions and a radical understanding of sex and gender (like this one from Slate, claiming that “there’s no such thing as a ‘male body’.”).

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (1 Timothy 4:3,4)

I think we’re there.

‘First They Came’ Redux

July 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

That’s a poem written in 1946 or so by Martin Niemöller, a German pastor who spoke out against the Nazis, but regretted not standing up for his Jewish neighbors during his own imprisonment. Here’s how a Christian in Iowa, in light of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s latest measure about churches and public accommodations(1), might rewrite Niemöller’s poem today, considering the advancement of the modern sexual revolution:

First they came for the florists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a florist

Then they came for the bakers
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a baker

Then they came for the photographers 
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a photographer

Then they came for the pastors
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a pastor

Then they came for me 
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

 

1) Patroski, William “Churches Challenge State on Gender Identity Law.” The Des Moines Register, 6 July, 2016. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2016/07/05/church-sues-state-iowa-over-transgender-bathroom-rules/86700392/

The Spirit of Disobedience

July 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

“…you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem…. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. … What we are trying to do, I assume, is really to get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing.”

This is Matt Damon reading from a 1970 speech by author and historian Howard Zinn(1) that has captured at least some sentiments of both liberals and conservatives. Zinn himself was leftist and historical revisionist, and Damon is also progressive in many ways. Yet conservative Americans can relate to the idea of “a spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority” under the current administration, and our need to “establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence,” (or re-establish them). But we’ll disagree over what those principles are and whether their meaning should be reinterpreted in light of contemporary culture.

Regardless of the reason we may have to disobey a governing authority, everyone who seeks to leave one authority is answering a perceived higher calling of another. Civil disobedience is an undertaking that Christians are not to take lightly in light of Romans 13, God’s call to respect the authorities he’s established, except when they contradict God’s law. And for Christians, God’s authority, established in His written word, is what we are to leave all other authorities for, and His word is also what defines illegitimate authority. Sometimes the authority we should abandon is our government, and sometimes it’s ourselves.

In any case, “the spirit of disobedience” is not an answer by itself (indeed it was the very first problem in Genesis 3). We first need to identify who our ultimate legitimate authority is. Frankly, if it isn’t God, it will always be one worth leaving.

1) Video with the full text of Zinn’s speech: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36950.htm

Where Consent Fails

June 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

Sexual assault is always wrong. On this, most people won’t disagree, and events like the rape of an unconscious Stanford University student by Brock Turner drive that sentiment home. If someone does not give their consent, having sex with them is wrong. As true as that statement is, the Christian sexual ethic goes further than consent for reasons both spiritual and natural.

Consent covers

SPIRITUAL CONSEQUENCES

Sex isn’t just physical,” says Andy Stanley, author of a very good sermon series on the topic(1). “There’s more to sex because there’s more to you. …You’re more than a body. … You have a heart, a soul, and a mind. There’s an intangible component to you that you may not be able to define, but you would never deny…”(2) A triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—designed sex to be experienced physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Christians understand sex as something God created for a man and a women to enjoy within the context of marriage for the purpose of procreation (Genesis 1:28), but also as a representation of Christ’s love for the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32). In God’s goodness, He gave mankind a way to bring new life into the world that in a way reflects the kind of relationship God desires with His people—one of intimacy, pleasure and productivity. A husband and wife sacrificially loving each other also points to the Gospel.

Genesis 2:24 says that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” A husband and a wife become one in an emotional sense but also a spiritual sense. We are made to become with one other person, not one with many. Following this blueprint not only works the best, it honors our Creator. Consenting to sex outside of marriage is wrong in the sight of God, grieving the one who redeemed us and the one whose opinion matters the most. 

NATURAL CONSEQUENCES

God-honoring sex can only happen within marriage the way God designed it, but secular-minded people generally don’t care about Biblical morals of sex and marriage or the spiritual consequences of “free love.” Are there natural consequences to consensual sex? The wreckage left from the sexual revolution is hard to ignore, though many still try. For many, consent remains the ultimate arbiter of permissible sexual choices, but consent can’t fix the disastrous real world results.

Consent can’t save millions of adults from sexually-transmitted diseases contracted between willing sexual partners. In the past 15 years, 38.1 million people have become infected with HIV and 25.3 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses. While AIDs cases peaked in the early 1990s, STDs are now on the rise in the US, particularly among younger people, gay and bisexual men(3). The World Health Organization estimates 340 million ANNUAL episodes of curable sexually transmitted infections (chlamydial infections, gonorrhoea, syphilis, trichomoniasis) occur throughout the world.(4)

Consent can’t save millions of aborted children. The vast majority of unintended pregnancies come from intended sex. In order to keep future plans intact, the response is in at least 40% of unintended pregnancies, to terminate the future of the resulting child through abortion. Of the 58 million children killed in the US since Roe v Wade legalized abortion, less than 1% of those were pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.(5) The rest are carnage from consensual sex.

Consent can’t save millions of people from destroying themselves with pornography. Empirical scientific study shows that continual porn use alters the brain, and is as addictive as chemicals or alcohol. It’s self-deceptive and distorts a person’s view of healthy sex, ruins intimacy with real partners, and demeans women in particular. Porn has been linked to violent behavior and tears apart families.(6) Porn is never harmless and always involves more than the viewer.

Consent can’t save millions of relationships doomed from cohabitation. A little over half of couples who “try out” marriage by moving in together actually do marry, and the ones who do are at greater risk of divorcing within the first few years of marriage than couples who married without living together first. Government studies report that cohabiting couples earn less money, are less happy, more prone to depression, substance abuse and violent fights, experience higher infidelity, have a separation rate 5 times that of married couples and a reconciliation rate one-third that of married couples.(7)

Poor sexual choices often lead to or coincide with other poor choices—married couples too often mutually consent to divorce. Half of all children experience divorce. Seventy-five percent of children with divorced parents live with their mothers, while 43% never see their fathers.(8) Growing up without a father has been linked to increased rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, incarceration, poverty, job insecurity, relationship issues, substance abuse, social and mental behavioral issues, and dropping out of school. (9) Millions of children suffer the absence a father, whether it’s the result of divorce or the fact that so may children are born to single mothers. In a study tracking the first wave of millennials to become parents, a team from Johns Hopkins University recently found that 64 percent of mothers gave birth at least once out of wedlock.(10) Almost one-half had all of their children without ever exchanging vows.”(11)

One thing that’s important to keep in mind when looking at statistics: When a certain behavior is “linked” to a previous behavior, it may not be caused by it (correlation does not always mean causation). For instance, the act of moving in with your girlfriend does not necessarily produce the higher degree of unfaithfulness that typifies that kind of relationship. What this usually means is that a lack of commitment is the probable cause for both the decision to substitute marriage with cohabitation and the decision to cheat later on. Ultimately, it’s the outworking of a worldview rooted in boundless sexual freedom and self-expression, not one that regards the will of our Creator or seeks the ultimate good of others.Dancing

ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES

All sin separates us from God, but sexual sin earns a special category that connects the spiritual and natural consequences. Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 6:18 to “flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” God is particularly interested in our sexual purity because God knows how harmful sexual sin is not only to His relationship to us, but to our own body and soul. A loving God cares what we consent to do to ourselves. Why wouldn’t He?

The good news is that Christ died for the sexual brokenness we all share. While sexual sin has its own category, Christians are not immune from this sin or the natural consequences. We need to remember that when we point to the sins of others.

The sexual revolution didn’t start in the 60s, but in Genesis 3 with mankind’s relentless pursuit of personal autonomy apart from our Creator. Author and FamilyLife Today co-host Bob Lepine notes that “Our souls crave the intimacy and the rightness of the sexual experience God created us for, but we settle for cheap substitutes. And in the end those substitutes always disappoint, because they fall short of what God intended.”(12)

Our aim should be for grace—the kind that we’ve been given—and for truth, God’s design for sex that’s best for everyone. In both, our aim is much higher than consent.

1) Stanley, Andy. “The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating” NorthPoint.org. North Point Community Church, Apr.-May, 2011
2) Braun, Brandon. “Becoming One” OneCornerstone.org. Cornerstone Christian Church, 19 Feb. 2015.
3) National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “Reported Cases of STDs on the Rise in the U.S.” CDC.gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Nov. 2015
4) Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP). “Chlamydia – CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed)” CDC.gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Apr. 2016.
5) “Abortions in America” OperationRescue.org. Operation Rescue, Inc.
6) Fight the New Drug, 2014. FightTheNewDrug.org
7) “Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch (DBSB) NICHD Report to the NACHHD Council September 2007” nichd.nih.gov. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Human Child Development, 2007
8) Cherlin, Andrew J. “Changing Fertility Regimes and the Transition to Adulthood: Evidence from a Recent Cohort” krieger.jhu.edu. Johns Hopkins University, 2014
9) “32 Shocking Divorce Statistics” McKinleyIrvin.com. McKinley Irvin Family Law, 30 Oct. 2012
10) Thurston, Jack. “The 9 Devastating Effects of the Absent Father” TheFatherCode.org. The Father Code, 2016
11) Weissman, Jordan. “For Millenials, Out-of-Wedlock Childbirth is the Norm” Slate.com. The Slate Group, 6 Jun. 2016
12) Lepine, Bob. “We’re All Sexually Broken” FamilyLife.org. FamilyLife, 2013
Other great resources:
Kreeft, Peter. “Sexual Symbolism” PeterKreeft.com.
Stanley, Andy. “A Candid Conversation” YourMove.is, Your Move with Andy Stanley, 5 Jun. 2016
Mohler, J. Albert. “Insanity of ‘Yes Means Yes’ Sex Ed Shows Implausibility of Sexual Morality of Consent (The Briefing podcast)” AlbertMohler.com. Dr. Albert Mohler, 16 Oct. 2015.

Grace Overflow

May 27, 2016 § 2 Comments

overflow

“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:12-14)

Paul describes the grace of our Lord as overflowing. If you’re a parent, then you have likely looked at your child and felt as if your heart was going to burst. I wonder if this is what brings out God’s grace, and if the perfect version of this kind of love is what God feels for us. As His image-bearers, though limited and sinful, we also have grace to spare. Kids do bad things, and I don’t love mine any less when he does. In spite of our sin, God’s heart overflows with grace and His love never stops.

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

God’s grace must be in abundance, because if it were given in proportion to our merit, we would never see it. Thank Him for that.