Tag Archives: bible

Riposte: Christians for Sanity

bq. I’ve said it many times before: creationism is just wrong, and one group that should be fighting it hardest is Christians. They are letting a vocal minority usurp their religion, and if they don’t speak up they run the risk of letting those people speak for them. (Source: “Bad Astronomy Blog”:http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2007/02/10/christians-for-sanity/)

Seriously? No, really – _seriously?!_ The group that should be fighting creationism the hardest is Christians? I disagree — vehemently. The folks who should be _supporting_ creationism most ardently are Christians – despite the claim made above, I don’t believe that creationists are even remotely in the minority of Christian faith (though I suppose I could be wrong – a lot could have changed while I wasn’t paying attention).

Now, while I wouldn’t say that the Bible should necessarily be “interpreted literally”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2005/03/24/thursday-march-24-2005-at-0241-pm/#comment-1288 (there’s a lot of metaphor, poetry, and storytelling in there where literal interpretation would actually cause understanding to break down), I _do_ believe that it is inerrant. I also believe in a literal six-day creation cycle – the original texts are quite clear on this point. The Hebrew is very specific about the intended meaning. There is no cultural context would force a different interpretation of the events described in the first chapter of Genesis. There’s no poetry, no storytelling, no figurative speech contained in those first few pages.

Scientific claims run counter to the Biblical explanation of the universe and mankind’s origins. It’s been a continual source of contention for decades — and it always will be. But the folks over at “Answers in Genesis”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/ provide solid apologetical responses to the claims of secular science, answers that, despite secular science’s claims to contrary, are well-thought out, answers that take science facts, data, and evidence into consideration, and yes, answers that are even rational and logical.

I know how antagonistic secular science is toward all concept of creation and intelligent design — and I’m even fine with that. You can please everyone, and people who ardently believe a certain ideal become very angry and hateful toward people who believe differently than them (and sadly, this also applies to many Christians). I respect the belief that Christians should be on the front lines opposing creationism; it’s an opinion, but nothing more. But those Christians who “celebrate Darwin Day”:http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11145-christian-faith-in-the-iotheri-good-book.html are, I believe, grossly and dangerously in error. I believe that a Christian _can_ believe in evolution and the Big Bang and still be a Christian, but I believe that their beliefs with regard to origins theory are very, very wrong.

Call me a goofy whacko, if you will (oh, you already have?), but you simply can’t tell me all this around us came about by accident, not even by citing the “2nd law of thermodynamics”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/26/presuppositionalism-science-and-faith/#comment-10675 at me. I recognize the value of science and acknowledge its importance. But I don’t believe that traditional secular science has a prayer (I just love irony) of explaining the origins of this universe or of mankind. It’s simply too limited and conducted by a creature that is itself far too limited to explain or understand something that big and complex.

Relating to the Powers-That-Be

My Bible study from a couple of days ago wanted me to write out what I have learned about submission from a series of verses. This was the second one on the list.

bq. ^5^Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Romans 13:5

There wasn’t much to go on there. The ‘therefore’ indicated that there was an entire discussion prior to this verse and that this phrase was simply the conclusion. Additionally, because I read the verse alone, ‘because of conscience’ left me wondering exactly what Paul was talking about. Context is always critical in the exposition of Scripture, so I backed up a few verses to the beginning of this thought.

bq. ^1^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. ^2^Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. ^3^For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. ^4^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 of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. ^5^Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Romans 13:1-5

Now, this passage clearly indicates that all authorities in all governments the world over are put into place by God Himself. There is no leader that has his position that God has not willed to have that place of prominence. Therefore, rebellion against these authorities is also direct rebellion against God. In rebelling against our leaders, we are, in essence, shaking our collective fists at God and saying that His choice of a leader for us was bad.

What I find interesting about this passage is the statement that doing what is right will reap a commendation from the one in authority, where doing wrong will reap only terror. Now, granted, this is not always the case. Sometimes doing the right thing will, in fact, earn us an undesirable result, but I do know of stories where someone did the right thing, even under a merciless dictator, and was rewarded for doing so. The principle applies – doing the right thing will usually earn the respect of those in charge.

I do think that this passage supports the notion that we get the leaders we deserve. I think of a country like Iraq, burdened for so long under the cruel government of a murdering dictator. Or Iran, with their continual problems with harsh leaders. This begs the question – would an entire nation that serves a god other than Jehovah naturally find themselves governed by ruthless leaders? Is that why Iran continues to have problems with bloodthirsty authorities? Another question then – would we, as a nation, then be wrong or unjust to interfere with what God has established by removing these leaders from power? Or would that, too, be in God’s will, either by providing a new, hopefully better leadership (i.e. democratic government) or by instituting an equally ruthless dictator (i.e. putting Saddam in power)? Either way it goes, I believe that it still works out in God’s will. He still provides the leadership that the people deserve, for however long that may be.

Ultimately, the admonition is clear and still relevant to today – we submit to God’s appointed authorities, whether they be political, religious, or social, so that we might avoid His judgment but also because it is the only right thing to do. He placed them where they are for our benefit, and as such we are to obey them.

Literal Truth

Rushan had a question posed to him recently that requires some attention, I believe:

bq. “I can no longer accept the Bible as literally true, am I still a Christian?”

If you read my “previous article”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=213, you should already know the answer to this: Yes, so long as acknowledge and accept the message of the Gospel. More specifically, so long as you recognize your inability to attain Heaven on your own and accept the person of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and subsequent resurrection as your only hope for salvation. If you are able to do and say that, then yes, you are still a Christian.

I might express some concern, however, over what parts of the Bible you consider to be literal and what parts you do not. If you do not believe _any_ part of the Bible to be literally accurate, then we might have a problem, for then what foundation do you have for knowing the only truth that matters, to wit, how to know God and live with Him for eternity? If you cannot believe any part of the Bible to be literally true, then you cannot know whether or not the Gospel itself is true, rendering impotent its power to save. Likewise, you cannot then know that God exists, you cannot then know that He loves you and wishes to have fellowship with you, you cannot then know much of anything except for what your own five senses can tell you – and we know just how deceptive and misleading our senses can sometimes be.

I stated previously, as well, that historical passages of Scripture should be interpreted literally, things like the existence of people who appeared in the various stories (e.g. Abraham, David, Jesus, Paul, etc.) and geographical locations. Archaeology have even been able to verify much of the historicity of the Bible, thus giving it a great deal of authority. The trouble with literal interpretation comes with prophecy and imagery-laden parables. Prophecies are sometimes difficult to interpret, though at least partial interpretations were provided by many of the prophets themselves. But because they are visions of future events, I suspect that some of the prophets could only do their best to describe technologies they had never before seen (such as John the Revelator describing his vision of the end times). Whether we were ever meant to know and completely understand is something of a mystery, but it seems clear that much was given in such visions to provide both warning and hope to those who heard. Christ’s parables were told in such a way as to make those people who would to ruminate over the meaning, but He was also not opposed to providing clear meaning to those who asked (typically His inner circle of twelve).

I do believe that the Bible is a wholly trustworthy document. It’s accuracy has been verified time and again all the way back to the earliest manuscripts, and as such, it holds a great deal of authority and power. It continues to change lives merely by the simplest reading of its pages, further demonstrating that the Holy Spirit has preserved it and uses it to bring God’s children to Himself.

Living On the Fringes

It is the extremists of any major religion that end up giving the whole a bad reputation. Bad news travels more quickly than good news does, and poor behavior is more easily remembered and available to memory than is good behavior. So what typically ends up happening is that the whole organization gets placed under the banner of those who make the most noise, even though they are not necessarily a representative sample of that population. Christians are often perceived as hateful, unforgiving bigots because there are many who are exactly that. Note, however, that I did not say ‘majority’ or ‘most’ because it has been my own experience that, in general, those who call themselves Christian do strive to live up to the compassionate, forgiving ideals of the Bible and of Christ’s teachings. The same goes, as I understand it, for those of the Muslim faith. The vast majority are a peace-loving people, and those who perform heinous acts of murder and bombing are the fringe extremists, just as are those Christians who bomb abortion clinics, twisting the ideals of their religion into a perverted distortion of the actual. In the process they give the entire faith a black eye, and the world sees the whole as being just like the extremists.

So, the question becomes then, what underlies these fringe, extreme groups? What drives them to justify horrible acts and behaviors that are counter to the basic tenets of belief that define the faith they claim to espouse? Ultimately, I can only conclude that they are flawed people, just like the rest of us, who, whether through willful disobedience or through genuine ignorance, misunderstand the teachings of their religious system in such a way as to justify hatred and murder. They are the people who lack the personal discipline to control their emotional impulses, who act on their base desires, rather than striving to live up to a higher ideal of morality. They are the people who pick and choose which parts of their canon to abide by, rather than understanding that the bits they follow are parts of a whole and cannot be separated from it without ending up, by definition, with a completely different set of beliefs. They are the people who were already angry and bitter, who found a system of belief that was attractive to them and fit at least somewhat with their own preconceived notions of how the world should operate. They are the people who then twisted the system of belief to fit their own ideals, rather then reshaping their own ideals to fit the system. In so doing they found justification and an outlet for the violence already in their hearts, and by acting upon that violence, then sullied the name and reputation of the group they claimed to be a part of. Christians who bomb abortion clinics or express hatred, bigotry, and superiority to those not like them are Christian only in name; they are not Christian in actuality because anyone who truly understands the teachings of the Bible would not perform the sorts of behaviors that these extremists tend toward. Similarly, Muslims who fly planes into buildings and strap bombs to themselves and blow up a group of children, and who decapitate innocent victims are Muslim in name only; they do not represent the Muslim faith at large or the teaching of the Qu’ran and do more harm to people of that faith than good. These extremists cannot and should not be called Christian or Muslim, even though they call themselves that. They should be called murderers and hatemongers and should be separated, both in name and in deed, from the whole of the groups that they claim to be part of. Yet, perhaps because it is convenient to do so, they continue to be categorized into the group by the population at large, thereby stereotyping the whole by the deeds of the few. Unfair? You bet. But stereotyping is easy and convenient, even if it is at times unfair and makes it harder for those with the true ideals of their beliefs to communicate them. It is a challenge, no doubt, and that is why unity of the whole is necessary in order to overcome the misdeeds of the few.

A Better Man Than Me

Listening to the Gospel of John, as recited by Jason Nightingale of “WordSower International”:http://www.wordsower.org/index.htm, I realized just how much patience our Lord Jesus had for the people to whom He ministered. Again and again, he performed miraculous works and wonders that proved His divinity and validated His message, and again and again the people asked, “By what sign can we know that you are the Son of God? Show us a sign so that we may believe.” And again and again Christ responded by saying, “I have already told you who I am. You ask for a sign not so that you may believe but so that you may be fed.” (How like so many people even today.) Even Christ’s own disciples did not fully believe until that fateful night when he was betrayed, and then their faith was limited by their understanding, since they did not know (a shortcoming of the religious leaders of the day?) that He meant to rise again three days after His death. Listening to Jesus interact with the people, I knew that my patience would have given out long before. There would have come a point where I would have responded in anger and frustration, and I probably would have written off the followers completely and ended my ministry in despondency and burnout. Yet, Christ persisted, preaching His message over and over again, knowing then that most would not understand, let alone believe, knowing what He was facing for a people who would be ungrateful and unforgiving. With this knowledge He continued His ministry all the way to the cross and gave His everything to save His people. I would have given up long before. This Christ, this Yeshua, this Jesus of the Jews, Messiah, Savior of the world, was, and is, a better man than I.

When a Joke Is Not a Joke

In addition to running Open Dialogue, I’m also a moderator on another forum. Occasionally, my duties involve resolving various bits of unpleasantness, and today was just such a day. Ultimately, I ended up locking a thread due to some nasty flaming between a handful of members and sending private messages (PMs) to said individuals cautioning against further behavior of the kind they displayed today. The fellow who instigated the whole fiasco responded saying that people just “don’t know when it is a joke.”

This incident got me thinking anew about the nature of joking and when joking might be pushing things too far. I realized that I had essentially already written
about this last night, voicing the general principle that should probably apply here, as well. In my opinion, a joke is only a joke when all parties involved can enjoy it and have fun with it. When even one individual finds the joke offensive or is uncomfortable as a result of the joke, then joke ceases to be a joke because it ceases to be completely funny. If everyone involved cannot enjoy the joke, then it probably should not be told or enacted. It seems unfair to force someone to endure something that they do not find funny or humorous.

Some guidelines that I myself use (or at least try to) when determining whether or not to follow through with a joke:

  • If there is even a question as to whether or not someone will enjoy the joke, I do not even begin it.
  • If it is obvious that my joke is making someone uncomfortable, I quit immediately and apologize to the offended party.
  • If I find out afterward that my joke offended someone, I seek out that person to apologize and make restitution.
  • In the rare instance that I am unsure exactly what was offensive,
    I seek to find out what that was and make the effort to repair or avoid
    that element or joke in the future.

There are biblical principles for this, foremost seeking to avoid causing others to stumble:

Romans 14:19-21
19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33
31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own
good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Sometimes I wish everyone would look out for the best interests of everyone else. It sure would make the world a better place.

Should Christians Take Legal Action Against Homosexuality and Gay Marriage?

I’ve had quite a bit of discussion with a number of individuals over this issue in recent months, and as a result I’ve had to think quite bit about the Christian stance on the legalization of gay
marriage. I’ve heard it said that the government has the right and the duty to make homosexuality illegal, which would also effectively take care of the issue of gay marriage. But as I’ve come to think about it more and more, I have to disagree.

The United States represents freedom. It was founded with the basis of providing a land where its citizens could practice their own beliefs without fear of persecution. To that end, I believe that homosexuals have the right to practice their lifestyle, even though such a lifestyle is clearly defined as sin in the Bible. Furthermore, the principles of the Bible only apply to those who are followers of Jehovah God; they have absolutely no bearing on unbelievers, and we cannot expect unbelievers to behave like believers. Therefore, we as Christians have no right to force our beliefs on others through legal means.

I’ve heard it said by many, “Your rights end where mine begin.” I’ve come to see this statement as being very reasonable. Ultimately, homosexuality affects only the people involved in the
lifestyle (though this is not, of course, strictly true, considering the emotional and psychological effects this can have on close friends and family). Whether Joe and Jake are in a relationship does not affect me, nor does their decision to get married. It doesn’t affect my ability to have a heterosexual relationship or my ability to get married, start a family, have a job, get medical benefits, etc. I may disagree with their choice of lifestyle, but given that they are not Christians, I cannot expect them to live like Christians.

Tim Wilkins states that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality — it is righteousness. Ergo, the way to change homosexuals is not to force heterosexuality on them via legal means but to win them to Christ, Who then has the power to show them their sin and to change their lives. I, for one, agree and see this idea as further support for the notion that we as Christians have no business making
homosexuality or gay marriage illegal. The logical end of this is that, if we are going to make homosexuality and gay marriage illegal in this country, then we also need to outlaw every other sin (thereby destroying the very freedoms this nation represents). The problem with this notion should be obvious — it would be taking us back to the days of the Old Testament and the Law, forcing Pharisaical lifestyles, and effectively negating the work of Christ.

I do think that there are ways for Christians to be involved and effective in politics, but I think we need to choose our legal battles a little more wisely. Certain issues should be overlooked,
whereas others should have more attention paid to them.

I’ve also posted this on my forum, which is actually where the topic originated. I would much prefer you to leave your thoughts on my forum (though I’ve re-enabled comments here) in order to keep the thread of discussion together. I definitely hope to hear from some you on this topic, as I know it is currently a very touchy one in our culture right now.

Blessed Be…

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9 ESV (emphasis added)

Sifting

I love psychology. It is, after all, my chosen field. And I must say that getting my master’s degree from a secular institution has been interesting, to say the least. I always have to include a personal mental disclaimer to every lecture. For example, in my Social Cognitions class last night, we discussed briefly a classic psychological “chicken-or-the-egg” phenomenon — which affects which first? Physiology or affect (moods/emotions/etc.)? (See? Chicken. Egg.) Does physiology initiate an action and thus mood is interpreted from the aroused physiological state? Or does affect/cognition initiate the arousal and thus the physiological reaction.

Enter disclaimer — “Note to self: present company has little to no notion of the spirit/soul, and few theories even mention the topic, let alone discuss it. Be sure to account for that in your own personal practice.

That’s a continued problem I run into (and probably will for the rest of my professional life) – most of these theories are so frustratingly unilateral and unimodal. The theories attempt to fit all the facets and nuances of human behavior into a nice, tight little package of cause-and-effect (impossible!). And while some theories are better than others, none is perfect (or necessarily even great) at doing the job. So, I sift, sift, sift through the theories and take out the useful stuff (using a biblical, as well as a practical, foundation)and, with a VERY critical eye, blend it with what the Bible says about the human condition and the human relationship to one another and to God. Very tedious, yet at the same time, really quite fun. Especially when application can be made — and one can watch it work!

So, I sift the theories, but mentally add the element that nearly every theory neglects — the spiritual side of humanity. If you can’t identify ALL the pieces of Man, then you can’t properly address all the NEEDS of Man.