Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bathrooms, Bakers, and...Bigots?

Who would have thought that we would have knock down, drag out cultural debates about whether a biological male or female ought to be able to go into the restroom of "their choice"?! Below is a comment I made in reply to a comment on my original comment to a Yahoo! news story about Ringo Star cancelling his concert in NC as a protest against their "restroom law". My original comment received over 800 likes and over 600 comments/replies. One common type of comment to which I responded was with the explanation below because it gave an opportunity to correct a common misunderstanding AND more importantly an opportunity to share the Gospel. Keep in mind, for those who choose to engage in online witnessing/apologetics we typically aren't expecting to convince hardcore "opponents" although we recognize God can change anyone's mind! Primarily we are trying to give a good answer so those who are "on the fence" and watching the back and forth will be positively influenced to the truth. So this might be helpful for someone else to think through this specific issue and objection to be better prepared for the next time it comes up...
The below response to Catherine was in response to her "question" of why don't Christians object to participating in weddings (to cater or photograph for instance) of adulterers, or child molesters or people who've had sex prior to marriage since all those things are considered sin by Christians.
"Catherine Gauthier This is a common rebuttal that I hear. But here is the difference and it is a massive difference. Christianity is at essence God coming to man, in the person of Jesus, to provide forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God. It is not man getting to God because man is utterly sinful and broken and cannot be good enough to "earn" forgiveness or reconciliation to God. We are ALL sinners and not just because we do those bad things you listed but because we don't love God above all else and honor Him in everything we are and do. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with your whole being...we ALL fail at that and so we need God's grace to forgive us and set us right with Himself. He does that through Jesus alone. SO, of course Christians don't refuse to relate to and work with sinners because we're all sinners! The homosexual sinner is no worse than I am in God's eyes. And the adulterer who is getting married is simply a sinner getting married.
Now, many Pastors will not marry people for a variety of religious/biblical reasons because the Pastor is actually solemnizing the marriage and will not put his blessing on something unbiblical. But for caterers etc there is a significant difference. The adulterer doesn't come into the bakery and say, “oh by the way, I am an adulterer and I would like you to bake a cake for my wedding and have it say, ‘adultery is beautiful and now we’re going to make it official by this marriage’, ok?” No, that never happens. If it did, those same Christian caterers and photographers would undoubtedly refuse.
What happens with a gay wedding is that the gay couple comes in for such wedding services and the ENTIRE point is that they are going to have a wedding to celebrate the union of two people of the same sex which is fundamentally a rejection of God’s definition of marriage and a fundamental rejection of God’s created order for male and female humans. This is in essence an utter rejection of God’s purpose for humanity in every sense and thus SIN and cannot under any circumstances be embraced and celebrated by Christians. If the adulterer or person who had premarital sex were getting married in such a way that was celebrating that sin it could not be embraced. But that’s not what they do, they are actually embracing God’s design for human relationship by entering into a covenant with one another to have a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman. In a very real sense they are turning away from those previous sins (adultery or premarital sex) by entering into a marriage.  So again, this is a completely different scenario from two people of the same sex entering into "marriage" - such a thing is a complete rejection and aberration of the biblical design and definition of marriage. 
So the difference between those scenarios could not be more clear…"

Significance of a Christian Marriage

There are few things more important to the married Christian's walk with Christ than how we relate with our spouses. As I approach my 32nd year of marriage to my beautiful wife and God's greatest gift to me (outside of the gift of Himself in Christ) I've been thinking a lot about this.
We're told in Eph 5 that marriage is wrapped up in a great mystery that reflects the great mystery of God in Christ and how He relates to the Church. In that passage Paul links it back to Genesis 2 and the original mandate from God for the husband and wife, two individuals, to become so united to become as "one flesh". How do we achieve that incredible oneness? Paul says that the husband, as head of the wife, is likened to Christ who is Head of the Church, and so like Christ should love His wife. And the wife, like the Church, should submit to His leadership and respect her husband. That's the process. Since I'm a husband, I've been reflecting on my part of that process...
As Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for her so the husband should love his wife in a self-sacrificial way. That provides us some definition of "love", being self-sacrificial, but still leaves it rather abstract. But God's word elsewhere provides ample definition of what Paul means here.
In 1Pe 3, Peter gives similar instructions to husbands and wives and tells the husband to live with his wife in an understanding way and in a way so as to honor her. So love is further defined here as understanding and honoring. And Peter also connects it to the spiritual saying that she is a fellow heir of God's grace such that if husbands don't live with their wives in an understanding and honoring way, their relationship with God will be hindered!
Then Paul provides perhaps the most complete and beautiful detailed definition of what he meant when he instructed husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. He does this in 1Cor 13. In that passage Paul tells us what actual, day to day love looks like, how it sounds, how it behaves. If your "love" for your wife doesn't look and sound and "feel" like this then it doesn't meet the high bar of Christian love. Paul says that love is, "patient and kind; does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful...it bears all things, believes all, hopes all things, endures all things".
Wow, I know I fail at loving Terri that way all the time but the fact of my failure does not diminish God's word and its authority for my life. No, it simply means I'm sinful, in need of a savior and must fight against the flesh so that I CAN love her that way more often than not. And if I do, if Christian men do, I'm quite certain that more often than not our wives will respond with the respect and honor and love we crave. But here is the truth - even if they DON'T - we are STILL to love them that way. For after all, is that not what Christ does for us?

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Challenge to Christians in a Culture of Intolerant Tolerance

A profound change in attitude has taken place in our culture and it seems Christians have largely been unable or unwilling to responded to it. This change in attitude is a change in how our culture views Christian ideas and values. Christian values were accepted in the past without question in most cases. When the validity of a principle or idea was up for debate, it was assumed that the Christian value system would be the measuring rod. A great example of this is seen in the history of the founding of our nation. Generally, it was assumed that the fundamental principles upon which this great nation would be built were to be the laws of the Jewish/Christian God. Even those individuals who were not professing Christians assumed it to be the best and wisest plan. The point is that it was an assumption. Nobody had to argue that the Judaeo Christian value system was the "right" model on which to build a society.

But today this is certainly not the case! Modern culture no longer assumes that the Judaeo Christian value system is right or true. In fact contemporary culture now assumes that it is not correct in most cases. American culture has relegated religious faith to the strictly personal and private arena. Many even become angry when one attempts to make ones' faith something more than a privately held personal opinion. So, many other philosophies have attempted to claim the place of objective, universal standard that the Judaeo Christian value system once enjoyed. As a result there are so many competing "value systems" in our modern society, and American culture is so complex, that it's well beyond the scope of this article to even review them. Suffice it to say that in large part our American culture honors plurality and a perverted idea of freedom of choice. Cloaked in ideas such as "plurality" (which also goes by the term "tolerance") and "personal freedom" (actually a deficient view of personal freedom without responsibility), all manner of societal ills now beset us.

As a result of these various value systems that exalt plurality (or tolerance) and personal freedom , reaction to the traditional Judaeo Christian value system is one of antagonism. The Christian value system contradicts the modern interpretation of plurality and personal freedom. Contemporary reaction to Christian values goes something like this, "What do you mean homosexuality is wrong? How can it be wrong if it is something in which two consenting adults engage and nobody else gets harmed. Some people are heterosexual and some are homosexual its just personal preference -- an alternate life style (plurality). And anyway, who are you to be telling someone else what's right or wrong. They have the right to do whatever (Personal freedom). In fact, you're the one who is wrong and have a problem! Your problem is homophobia and some psychologists say it's a mental illness!"

In the face of this ever growing antagonism what is the Christian to do? Well unfortunately, the response from Christians has often been one of simply reasserting the Christian message or worse to shut up and pull back! Christians should indeed continue to proclaim the truth. God's word is "sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Heb 4:12 NIV). We must continue to proclaim his word and truth. But we must do more. Continuing to only proclaim the word is a one dimensional response. We must also defend the truth. It's rightly said “we will never argue anyone into heaven” however, "...do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (I Pet. 3:14-15 NIV). We have clear and powerful examples from God's word to follow. John the Baptist preached and debated the religious and civic leaders of his time. Jesus debated and reasoned with the Pharisees explaining the truths of the Kingdom. Acts 17 states that Paul's custom was to reason with the Jews in the synagogue, explaining and proving that Jesus was the Christ. Later in that chapter we see that Paul reasoned in the synagogue and the marketplace every day. He even used literature and arguments from the Greek's own philosophers to prove to them the truth of his message.

We have a reasonable faith. Christianity is not someone's personal private opinion or fantasy. Faith is not a blind leap. We have nothing to be embarrassed about! No, we have evidence, fact, proofs that what we believe is real and true. There is more historical evidence and proofs for the events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ than for nearly any other event in antiquity. So, our response to a culture that wants to setup other standards of conduct must be bold and confident! There is no other standard that has fact and truth for its basis. Then we must be willing to defend and prove what we say with rational argument yet with a loving attitude. When we say "prayer should be in school and the ten commandments back on the walls of our schools" we must be willing to explain why. When we say "abortion is wrong" we must be able to explain why. We must be able to defend our belief that the theory of evolution is inadequate. It should be taught only as a theory along side creation in our schools. Our culture asks "why should sex only take place in a heterosexual marriage relationship?". We must be able to give a reasoned explanation and at all times it must be tempered with love. If we cannot answer these questions and issues with reasoned, logical explanations our generation will turn us off. The Church will enter a whole new era of irrelevance. We must step up without fear and say to our generation and culture "Jesus has the answers and they make sense and they work." Do we really believe it? I do!

Beyond Kim Davis - Thoughts on the Marriage License Controversy

Here is a prime example of the MASSIVE misunderstanding of the nature of the "marriage license" controversy. https://video-ord1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hvideo-xfa1/v/t42.1790-2/11932711_1904773503082181_613486052_n.mp4?efg=eyJybHIiOjQ1MywicmxhIjoxMTYyfQ%3D%3D&rl=453&vabr=252&oh=b9155f91ae4875ac191bbc7e9ec45ecc&oe=55F2D5FC

While this little video may be humorous it defines marriage as nothing more than a set of human traditions. And like all traditions they can change and flux with time and culture. So the point made by the videos is, "who are we to define what marriage is or is not for someone else".

The fatal flaw in this thinking is to think that marriage is up for definition! Just because cultures throughout history have had numerous traditions surrounding marriage (some of which come out in this video) one thing has remained constant -: marriage is between a man and a woman. This cultural consistency, while sometimes wavering from the ideal, is not defining but recognizing the nature of marriage. Marriage is a "metaphysical" reality meaning it has an essence. It is something independent of our definition. It is a reality of "nature" and more than that, a reality defined and provided by God as an essential part of the very nature and fabric of human existence.

Therefore, marriage cannot be defined or redefined by the Supreme Court or any other human institution. Sure, cultures and institutions can define various traditions AROUND marriage. And no, those traditions should never be imposed on others but rather adopted by people who see those traditions as helping to add meaning to the marriage process. BUT the essence of marriage remains unchanged. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman as defined by "nature and nature's God" to borrow a phrase from our nation's founders.

With that in mind, how can Kim Davis, or any other county clerk, or any Pastor or Judge or anyone else involved in the marriage process be compelled by any human authority to lie about or misrepresent the nature of marriage? It matters not what the Supreme Court says about marriage - they don't define it! Just like it matters not what the Supreme Court says about the nature and value of a pre-born human life in the womb. Can the Supreme Court or some human law compel a nurse or doctor to kill a child in the womb just because it's "their job"? What happens if Peter Singer and the more radical element of the Democrat party get their way and the Supreme Court decides the Constitutional right to privacy also allows the mother to kill her child anytime after birth up to one year? Will we comply simply because "it's the law"? God forbid! As St Augustine of Hippo said, "an unjust law is no law at all".

Brothers and sisters in Christ, these issues before us today are profound and we must think clearly and biblically. We must be prepared to answer and act in a Christ honoring way. We cannot afford to be sucked into the cultural muck of relativistic philosophy that claims reality is what we define it to be. Just because you say "I want to be a girl even though I am a boy" does NOT make you a girl! And just because you say, "We two women or we two men are married" does not make it true. And these two issues are critically and fundamentally linked as gender is integral to the nature of marriage. Gender is a reality not up for human redefinition and marriage is a reality not up for human redefinition.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ON GUN CONTROL

My response to a letter to the editor in the St. Louis Post Dispatch Dec 26, 2012 regarding gun control in response to the Newtown Ct. shooting:

"I think your comparison is good but a little bit off. You're exactly right that just because someone might perhaps own a Corvette they don't have a right to drive 150 MPH. They should obey the speed limits just like the rest of us. That's exactly right. In fact that's my exact position regarding assault style rifles or high capacity magazines. Just because I own an assault style weapon and high capacity magazines doesn't mean I should use them in an illegal or harmful way...but I still have the liberty to own them just like the guy who still has the liberty to own the Corvette. He should drive his Corvette responsibly and legally as I must use my assault style weapon and magazines responsibly and legally.


Also, just like the guy with the Corvette - his car looks like a professional race car and is a lot faster and more capable than a "regular" family sedan BUT it is NOT a professional race car. The corvette has very important features that make it road legal and safe vs a professional race car and it has limitations that a professional race car does not have. This is just like it is with what we call "assault style" rifles. They look like the guns used by the military but they have very important differences that make them legal and safer for public use. The main difference in what I own vs what the military uses is that my "assault style" rifle is semi-automatic only (just like most hunting rifles) whereas the military assault rifle is selectable between semi-automatic (one shot per trigger pull) and full automatic (multiple shots per trigger pull). There are other differences but this is the biggy.

There is widespread misunderstanding about guns and about these so called "assault style" rifles. The ONLY differences (in terms of lethality) between a citizen version of a typical "assault style" rifle and a typical semi-automatic deer rifle are two: 1) the deer rifle is usually much more powerful than the assault style rifle and 2) the assault style rifle can accept larger capacity magazines. Over the past 10 years the assault style rifles have become far more popular among sport shooters for shooting competitions and hunting. For hunting the high capacity magazines are usually illegal so they utilize lower capacity magazines. For shooting competitions however the high capacity magazines are most often utilized. So when you hear people say, "there is no legitimate use for these assault weapons and high capacity magazines...they are only for killing people" you now know that is untrue.

Finally, "assault style" rifles are utilized by citizens for home defense. They make an excellent home defense choice because, when using the correct ammunition, they are often safer than a pistol or shotgun in regards to "over penetration". By that I mean, if the unthinkable happens and I am forced to defend my family from home invaders and I have to shoot someone, and if I use my assault style weapon with good self-defense ammunition, the likelihood of that bullet continuing to travel and penetrate through multiple walls and perhaps exit my house and penetrate into my neighbor's house is greatly minimized.

MUCH more could be said but I wanted to respond to your comments because you made a reasonable comment and one problem with this debate is that too many people really don't want to talk. They want to simply scream their opinions. Hopefully this helps clarify some things for someone. The bottom line is that this country was established on the basis of personal liberty and limited government. Liberty by its very nature is dangerous because it allows people to do bad things as well as good things. If we try to control the bad things by removing some aspect of personal liberty from everyone then we transfer more control to the government and eventually we will be no different than any other country in the world who has lost their freedoms and suffer under a tyrannical government. Like our founders said, our form of government (constitutional republic) is designed for a religious and moral people and is wholly unfit for any other. If we don't have the internal governance required to handle our liberty we will certainly lose it".

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON THIS TOPIC

In the final paragraph above I touch on the 2nd amendment aspect of this issue.  In many ways I actually think this aspect is the most significant. It is very important that the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.  By so doing the founders were stating that this right, among others, was a fundamental right required to secure and maintain liberty.  Why?  Of course it doesn't really take much study to answer the "why" question.  If it were not for their possession of firearms in the new world they would not have been able to conduct a revolution and secure their own liberty from the England and establish the United States of America.  They understood this to be a key element in the realization of a free society and they understood this right had already been removed by the majority of "civilized" nations of Europe.  By removing firearms from the people, governments remove the power to overthrow the existing ruling elite who DO have firearms and thus concentrated, centralized power.  Such power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely...to employ an oft used axiom.  The founders knew this because they were thinking from a Christian, at least biblical, world view.  Mankind is fallen, sinful, and therefore very susceptible to corruption and that corruption will inevitably result in the oppression of the people.

So the 2nd amendment was seen to be absolutely critical to a free society.  Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Papers) argued against a formal Bill of Rights.  His reasoning is fascinating.  Hamilton's position was that the Constitution was inherently limiting to the Federal government.  Its purpose was to invest only certain powers and rights to the Federal government and invest ALL other powers, rights, and liberty to the states and people.  If a Bill of Rights was added to the constitution, a future generation seeking to gather more power to the federal government may use its existence to argue that, because there is a Bill of Rights delineating specific limitations around particular rights, the federal government must have SOME jurisdiction regarding those rights!  And Hamilton was right, that's exactly what has happened regarding freedom of religion and the right to keep and bear arms.  For both of these rights in particular (I think because these two rights pose the most threat to a corrupt central government) the government has intruded and limited the rights of Americans. In fact, the constitution specifically denies the federal government ALL jurisdiction in regard to these fundamental rights. 

In the name of "safety", "security", and "tolerance" the federal government of the United States has taken prayer from school and banned numerous classes of firearms.  The government dictates that nativity scenes cannot stand in specific places and that specific citizens cannot own firearms.  I could go on and on listing violation after violation of amendments one and two.  Our society is once again ripe for another large "power grab" by the federal government in the form of new and stronger gun control.  At some point this will be deemed intolerable by enough citizens that it will be resisted in a highly confrontational manner.  It already is being resisted by various individuals who become frustrated and allow that frustration to overflow in anti-social ways.  As a Christian one must think about these things and determine how to act if (and most likely when) the government of the United States effectively eliminates the Bill of Rights in this country and abolishes the fundamental freedoms that our founders died to establish and preserve.  The guiding principle for every Christian MUST be, what will bring honor to Christ?  What would Jesus have me do in this situation?  Ultimately, if our Christianity and our patriotism comes into conflict our Christianity must prevail.  How that will look under specific situations must be determined by the individual believer in communion with his/her community of faith.  It will not be easy and it may not always be passive.  But it will always be difficult and will always require sacrifice.