Posts Tagged Bible
Last Thanksgiving was one to remember. Somewhere in-between the compliments on my mashed potatoes and questions about whether dessert should be both pumpkin and pecan pie, I was told by a fellow Christ follower that I was accursed and going to hell. The conversation had turned from culinary choices to Christian responsibility in discussion of things like same sex marriage, security at church, and evolution versus creation. I felt comfortable around my fellow believers to speak openly about the bible and how it is used in our modern churches. I think that may have been my mistake. Honestly it probably was one of the better thanksgiving meals I have had. It was enlightening.
The specifics of the conversation are less important but the overall context speaks volumes to how we understand God and how the world actually sees us. The modern church seems to have adopted a unique view of biblical understanding. We mash verses like James 1:5 explaining where we should seek wisdom together with Colossians 2:8 about reliance on Christ and not human acumen and we end up with the ability to blame the Holy Spirit for our willingness to argue with the world about what we don’t like. Do we really think that is honoring God?
It seems like our desire for expedience and frankly our fears that we might agree with something we shouldn’t causes us to jump to conclusions about things we probably should chew on and struggle with more. Paul preached in a town called Berea and their response in Acts 17 was to examine the scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true. The word used (anakrino) is one of active and diligent searching. We seem to have sacrificed that today with a rote memorization of lists of things we are suppose to oppose. One offers the ability to swim in the words of the Creator himself and see how they change us to be more like him. The other affords us the ability to regurgitate on command. How can this truly honor God?
This is not a dark plot to squelch the words of the Spirit or a plan to usurp the throne of God with a conservative agenda of monotone “churchspeak”, it is more realistically a direction adopted from society itself to ease the burden of actually performing anakrino. With the information superhighway linked to everyone’s phones and the focus of modern communication, we are inundated with so many factoids that the only possibility to absorb them is to respond with “like” or “dislike”. We have exchanged the idea of a well-rounded and thorough education with a strong web presence. This does not honor God.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is not to blame, it is just a tool. Our use of it though will determine our efficacy in preaching the true gospel. I met a young man who was pursuing an online theology degree through a major Christian University. He explained it was faster and would get him into ministry sooner with the same educational value. He had been studying for a while so I asked who his favorite theologians were and his answer was that he couldn’t remember the names but he was willing to let me review his textbooks. If the quality of theological education being pursued by ministers today reduces the need to understand the history that brought us where we are and replaces that need with the requirement to offer an opinion in a class discussion post then we are breeding future ministers that will have no real ability to speak for the God they serve. Frankly this dishonors God.
If the some total of biblical examination that we are fostering in our church bodies is to look at an abridged online commentary or for that matter listen to a person who has done that and accept their version of truth, than how are we actually pursuing the call that was given? We are no longer preaching the gospel. We are preaching modern “churchspeak”. One of the clearest directives given in the text is from the prophet Micah. He tells us to pursue justice and mercy and walk humbly before our God. Humility starts with recognizing that our words about God are steeped in the tension of the fact we are speaking about something we have no possibility of understanding fully. If we present it as if it is simple and can be verified through a checklist, if we address the world’s concerns as if they are either on that list or not and therefore some type of abomination, if we stop examining the scripture and just read it to find agreement with our preconceived notions, than our ability to honor God has left the building. I have a large concern that God will follow shortly.
The message of the modern church is being obscured by our own voice. We are reaching some people, but I have to wonder if we are doing justice to them or the ones we are not reaching if we are encouraging compliance instead of diligent scripture searching. This does open up doors for possible misunderstanding and even not addressing sins in peoples lives. I am just not certain that is a bad thing. If we are truly seeking to honor God, then the most important thing to remember is we cannot bind his power to work in people’s lives by the insecurities of our own beliefs. The alternative is simply not working and I fear is an offense to the one we serve.
The rumble and roar of evangelicals could be heard around the internet. People boldly went to their nearest social media outlet to proclaim to the world, or more realistically their social circles, that they disapproved of the SCOTUS decision that marriage in the United States is now federally approved to include people of the same sex. One post even declared “we are followers of Jesus Christ first and foremost. Unto Death a Christian”. In response people from the opposite side of the argument posted pictures of the White House filtered through a rainbow and rainbow flags and images. The battle lines are being drawn and the newest Civil Conflict is being declared. One truth stood out above all other. Both sides feel it is us against them and the first casualty is communication.
The Church is preparing for the conflict, but in a unique way. The modern Church in general would consider themselves a New Testament Church but for some reason we are greatly modeling our actions out of Old Testament thought. I am not referring to the assessment of whether Homosexuality is acceptable in God’s eyes. I am referring to how we are responding to the perceived threat from the “gentiles” or more specifically, those outside the body of believers who support this ruling. We are calling out to God for protection from our enemies and seeking his strength for vindication as David did. We are gathering supporters and preparing for action as Gideon did. We are making stands for ourselves and our houses like Joshua. We are preparing our battle cry to call out like the army surrounding Jericho, “Marriage is between one man and one woman!”.
I think that is where we have missed the mark. We have been preparing for a fight for so long we forgot to check our facts. The Bible does not teach that marriage is between one man and one woman. Out of the 100 or so times marriage is mentioned, only a handful of verses mention anything in the way of instruction. Most of those instructions are about how to act between spouses and not who to marry. The statement “Marriage is between one man and one woman” comes greatly out of inference. In the garden when Eve was created she was given to Adam and the two became one flesh. Ok, I see the inference in the story but I don’t see the mandate. If you look at the rest of the bible the practices of marriage were steeped in polygamy and a brokerage system that involved purchasing a wife.
The standard response to this is that God tolerated these things but did not support them. I think this is where the real problem lies. We are inferring what the correct standard should be from the bible. We are allowing it to change to meet the social structure of a modern world based upon our understanding of what God intended. We have adopted that structure within our bodies and are encouraging our congregations to honor God through their involvement in that practice. All of that makes perfect sense within the church and we have every right and reason to create mandates for membership in our churches surrounding those inferences. But how exactly do we think that gives us any right to place those mandates on the rest of the world? How can we expect people who are not following God to sacrifice there personal desires to approximate a relationship with God without actually having one?
We are throwing around the word love and telling people that it is our responsibility to warn them that they are headed down the wrong path. I am not sure I can even fully agree with that sentence but even if I do, how exactly do we feel that legislation to prevent people from doing something we don’t agree with is warning them? We are not warning, we are preventing. How does lovingly warning turn into policing? That is clearly not our job yet for some reason, around this subject specifically, we not only want to take it on, but we are claiming God is requiring us to.
We have been so caught up in our preparations and supplication I have to wonder if we have forgotten invocation. Have we truly sought guidance from God on this and truly asked for his presence in our actions or are we running as fast as we can like a child with scissors in their hand. We are doing horrific damage to our own witness and causing people to turn away from the church, not because they are rejecting God, but because they are rejecting us. We need to stop this train before it permanently derails and get back to a focus of letting God be God and being happy with being his people. We have every responsibility to regulate actions within the church. We seem to have forgotten that responsibility stops at the church doors.
Was it gay bashing or freedom of speech? Was it posturing or proclaiming the word? Was it clear and concise or was it not well thought out? And probably the most important question, did it deserve the backlash it received from either side. Phil Robertson made a series of bad choices that led him to a crossroads he may not have foreseen. The first was to be candidly interviewed by GQ magazine. As strange as that sounds, it has a strong resemblance to Jimmy Carter being interviewed by Playboy Magazine and expecting to be seen in a positive light when asked about impure thoughts. When walking through a mine field it is best not to tap dance.
Another bad choice was to discuss racial history and how another race did or did not act. How could his understanding in high school offer any value? At the very best he could have dealt with this topic by saying he was naïve at the time and was not aware of problems. But frankly why interact on the subject at all if he was that naïve? If he could not help the situation by offering true insight, why engage? What is the real point of asking any celebrity their view on things they are not experts on? And why would they answer? As confusing as this may sound, this wasn’t the real firestorm in his interview.
The next bad choice involved answering questions on homosexuality. One side is saying his statements are hate speak and another says it was freedom of speech. In reality, it was neither. Phil tried to make light of the concept by equating an anus to a vagina. This is ignorance. Diminishing the importance of sexuality in our culture to a choice of human orifices shows that he is unable to speak cogently on the subject. His next set of statements regarding sin and the slippery slope idea that homosexuality somehow leads to bestiality and multiple partners or group sex is no better. The only thing that Phil proved is that he should not speak on the subject. His attempt to use scripture to support his view showed only that his ability to communicate biblical truths in complicated areas is not a strong skill.
Why do we feel that truth is delivering every thought that is in our mind? I think plenty of things that make me incredibly smart. Not the thoughts themselves, but knowing when to keep them internal and not say them. The biochemical and neurological events that interact with our sensory organs cause information to enter our brains. Our ability to perceive that data properly is based upon a variety of factors ranging from education, experience, physical health, vitamin deficiency or excess, and amount of sleep. The ability to coherently formulate a complex argument depends on all of those things working together well so we can filter the data that our senses provide. Basically just because we think something, does not make it right, viable, worth saying, or even a good idea. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Popularity does not make this process easier.
This issue is not about free speech or about hate speak. It is about a man put into a situation where he made statements that should have been filtered better. And because of that, people are choosing to be very, very opportunistic and throw stones at each other. Both groups are saying in a way that the other side hates them. When are we going to get to a point where we can put aside our differences and realize that everything thought does not need to be said in order to be truthful. When can we start to bridge the communication gap and get past the intolerance, on both sides? When will be able to reach out and tell a person that God loves them and we do as well and truly mean it? When will we be able to talk openly, respect each other, and not claim hatred over petty words? When will we begin to see that God does not care so much what we think, but cares greatly what we do?
If I were to say that Atheists are stupid, I would be labeled intolerant, disgruntled, biased, arrogant, and many other things that frankly I do my best to avoid. However some militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins feel that I as a theist am stupid, dimwitted, foolish, and many other things that frankly I do my best to avoid. But do they have a point? I mean realistically I am asking Atheists to have an open mind so I should as well. I believe in something that has no empirical evidence, requires me to act in ways that are completely contrary to my normal thought process, asks me to sacrifice myself for the sake of others, and ensures that I will be persecuted to some extent while alive. I have to admit the evidence weighs against me.
Historically my kind have offered responses to this that I would love to grab hold of and swing for the fence against these heinous accusations but I find they leave me empty at times. If Christians are going to respond to views like Dawkins, we need to be able to provide a defense for the hope that is within us. This is not just a theoretical polemic based upon the advent of the Spirit in time of need; it takes thought and preparation ahead of time which Dawkins feels we do not use.
Dawkins argues in his book The God Delusion that “God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe discoverable in principle if not in practice”. He feels that even if we cannot prove for or against the existence of God, we should be able to do much better than a 50% chance of being correct. I disagree with these hypotheses. If human science is able to open the door and find the man behind the curtain, then there must be a curtain, a door, and a place for the man to stand. In other words, if we are using tools common to the human realm, how can they determine something outside the human realm? If the best we can offer is not 100% accurate, than replacing faith with reason is faulty.
Dawkins argues that the existence of an advanced being that is more complex than human beings would require either an even more advanced being to create him or that a more advanced process would need to create that being. This starts with an assumption that all things need to be created or evolved. This is a carefully constructed false alternative fallacy. For a mind to be truly open about God, we need to be willing to accept options that are outside of our parameter set.
He argues that the Bible is “just plain weird”. It is “a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents”. I would have to agree. It was clearly not written by a single author or even complied by one. It has structural elements that span two millennia and was complied over the better part of one. But what does that have to do with God or Christianity. If my intention was to do a Book Review on the text I understand his concerns, but whether the ancient writings are collected in a book, online, PDF’s on my laptop, or scrolls in jar somewhere, that really doesn’t address their information. He says that the God of the Old Testament is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak”. That sounds an awful lot like a schoolyard bully trying to control a conversation through an ad hominem abusive argument, not a scholar looking to gain wisdom. I guess my challenge is I don’t see much explaining why my beliefs are stupid, dimwitted, and foolish. I do see an awful lot showing Dawkins doesn’t like them. I can live with that.
There are arguments that have validity that question my views. I am nowhere near arrogant enough to dispute that. But questions do not make me stupid, they actually should help to either reinforce my beliefs or help realign them. I believe in the God who communicated his message for man through scripture. Unless I am willing to say that I have a lock on all scriptural understanding, which I am quite unwilling to do, I have to accept that questions can only help me.
One question centers on Theodicy. It centers on the problem of evil and destruction in our world and the question of how an omnipotent and omniscient God could allow this. It argues against the assertion that God is all powerful, all knowing, or benevolent if he allows these things. This question calls out the same issue with Dawkins original hypothesis above. For us to claim God is not these things that befit the character of God, we are saying we fully understand how God is involved with the world, how he interacts, and we are judging that as not correct thereby claiming dominion over God and reducing his godhood. The question appeals to an outside governing agency to determine that God’s actions are either right or wrong. The problem is that if they are truly able to determine that, he is not God.
Another question comes from the idea that Jesus is the only way to get to God. The idea is that it is narrow minded to require all people to accept this single view point when there are a plethora of religions to choose from. A young pastor I once new felt that this argument had weight. He began to accept the idea that as no concrete scientific evidence exists for the assertions of the Biblical texts, than no religion should be excluded and all ideas should be embraced. He felt this larger more inclusive view better represented a god he would want to believe in and gave up his pastoral role and began to build out his own religion centered on this new god. Redacting the text by virtue of what is popular is nothing more than creating fiction. Calling it loving and inclusive makes it sound nice but does not reduce the fact that it is still creating fiction. The biblical text requires faith in God to be in right relationship with God. Emasculating that God on the account of our inability to reconcile his justice with our desires is rebellion and not faith. We can call it harsh, we can question the purpose, and we can even say we don’t like it. The moment we choose executive privilege to rewrite it is the moment we stop believing in it and elevate ourselves to godlike status.
Many other questions exist but none prove the idea that Christian belief in God is sub intelligent. The answers may be difficult and may not even best represent the God they are meant to represent. But believer are not less intellectual because they exist. If we are unable to openly discuss the idea that God exists outside of our ability to control, we only discuss what we control and that will never be God. It is not wrong to question God, in a lot of ways it makes sense. If we do however, we need to be ready for the answers and not expect they will fit in the boxes we want them to. Abusive rhetoric will not change that. Asking God why makes sense, listening to his answers makes even more sense.
There is an idea in modern pop culture that tolerance is a virtue and that anything that is not supportive of others actions is bigoted and judgmental. This sounds nice and leads rather seamlessly to Universalism. This concept involves a universal reconciliation between all of humanity and God and so the beliefs of all religions even anti religion are acceptable and included. This more inclusive approach is favored by many. It is certainly easier to say “go in peace, be warmed and filled” than to get involved difficult questions. But does that do anything to address the problems in our world today?
There are far too many pseudo philosopher/theologians using religion to try and get rich with half baked pithy arguments. I know that sounds harsh but the world does not need more Joel Osteens, we need to stop caring more about how we can best navigate the quagmire of mendacity and grime in our world to get rich and self satisfied and start finding ways to clean it up. In our desire to be politically correct, we venture down the path of blending all actions into the realm of acceptable in the sight of God. They become baptized in a sense and no longer something that we need to change, or at least change with any urgency. We downgrade evil from horrible to just not preferable. If we just say we are working on it that is enough. That is the problem, if the sum total of our philosophical journey is to claim that evil is not a real problem, we have not changed anything. We still are forced to swim in the sewer we have created. The toughest part is no matter how loud we scream, yell, call it something else, and try to spin doctor it into oblivion, the truth is simple. If we take God out of the picture or reformatted him into our own versions, the world is never a better place.
Good and evil are polar opposites in the spectrum. They are not contingent factors and therefore do not depend upon each other. If one is removed you are not left with the other. In other words the absence of evil does not create good. Good is only created by direct action, specifically direct good action. This may sound circular but it is foundational. Mankind’s actions are neither inherently good nor evil, they are neutral. Christian theology states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This sin is inherited through our genetic makeup basically and traces back to Adam. I understand the theology and where it comes from but it is an attempt to explain a concept as opposed to map the genome. In other words the figurative language is not a viable statement to explain how a newborn is evil or good. The Bible explains that only God is good and thereby good is preexisting to man. The only way to do good is to follow the guidelines that God has set forth such as seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before him. By following his teachings we are able to do good. By rebelling against his teachings we become evil.
If we try to take God out of the picture, we no longer have a framework to explain what good is. If we remove the concept of evil, the only thing we have done is put blinders on, turned the music up and yelled out “La, la, la, la, la, la” hoping to drown out the noise of our conscience. Advising others to tolerate is nothing more than seeking approval by consensus. It really doesn’t matter how many people want to do it, it will never be good and the rebellion will always be evil. If we want to make changes to the world, we need to start with ourselves and stop glossing over bumpy parts. We need to seek forgiveness where needed and change. Arguing we are not wrong will never make a bad situation better.
One of the largest foundational understandings of the Bible is that God created the world. Scientists and hardcore creationists can debate the “how” on that for years to come but from a purely faith perspective, God created it and throughout the prophetic books calls on it as witness to his majesty. He is first seen as Lord over creation and then allows humans to live in his domain through that creation. It would seem this subject should be very important in our daily lives, not the worship of creation but the respect for God’s creation. So why hasn’t the church historically been more concerned about that creation?
The claim that the polar ice caps are melting and that may cause torrential weather shifts is becoming less and less believable based upon scientific evidence. But it doesn’t take much to see that world is decaying on a dramatic scale. Air quality is getting worse, our natural resources are being drained, our landfills are overflowing, our ozone layer is reducing, and we spray toxic substances on our growing vegetables to decrease spoilage. We use nuclear reactors to power our world that even when run “safely” create a byproduct of spent uranium and thorium cells that remain wickedly radioactive for a thousand or so years. We currently have no manner of destroying them but we continue to produce them. As a people, we have learned to pollute and contaminate our world to an absurd level.
I am certain that the Christian church cannot stop this. I am certain it will only get worse and God’s creation will only take more and more abuse. But does that mean we do nothing to try? Do we think we are less culpable because the job is daunting? Do we think that God will hold us less accountable for our actions or lack thereof? Do we really think we are not to blame for the damage these actions have caused?
Think about this. We as consumers will not want to spend more money for fruits and vegetables. Stores will look for the lowest prices to ensure their profit margins. Farmers will do as much as they can to make as much of their crop sellable at the best cost possible, this includes toxic pesticides. The workers spraying these pesticides have statistically shown to have higher rates of disease, this includes their families though “take home” exposure. So in effect, simply because I want vegetables without spots at the cheapest price possible, I am affecting the health of other people. And somehow God will not care that I am unwilling to spend more because I want to save up money for a larger TV or Ipad?
I know it is not this simple and buying organic products solely is not possible for all and would not solve to overall issue. But is it not something to think about? I am not the one directly causing these problems, but do I have an indirect responsibility? Does the Church for not getting involved sooner? For myself, I would have to say yes, I do.
My concern is not that Churches are not picketing the local Ralphs or boycotting conventional products. That wouldn’t help and frankly Churches have done enough of that noise for a lifetime. I am more concerned they greatly ignore the question. As I stated, buying Organic will not solve the problem. But turning a blind eye will solve even less. If we are not willing to look at the problem, how can we claim we are acting morally? How can we claim we are treating God’s creation with respect? I don’t have a great answer for all the problems. But I do know that doing nothing is the worst possible answer.
I was given a link to a Youtube trailer for an upcoming show being sponsored by Oprah Winfrey called Preachers of LA. I need to start by saying I do not know any of these Preachers personally and have never been to their respective churches so the only thing I have to go on is the trailer itself. With that said, the opinions expressed in the trailer are at the very least far more prevalent in our churches than they ever should have been. Simply put, the biblical message is that Christ took on our sins due to the nature of God’s love to give man the ability to be redeemed and the opportunity to live forever in communion with God the creator of the universe. The message of this trailer and show appears to be that gift from God is a brand to be sold and make people rich. It made nauseous.
The idea of the health and wealth gospel is not really new; it has been distracting people for decades. It is preached by televangelists, supported by celebrities, and completely and totally contrary to the bible. I know this appears harsh but I have no other way to communicate it. If we centralize the focus of the biblical message to one verse ripped whole heartedly out of context about a minor character in Israel’s history (Jabez) and miss the crystal clear focus of the rest of the text we are clearly not honoring God. The overwhelming message is to love, have compassion and mercy, seek justice, and be content with God’s grace. One of the major character traits of God is justice. How can that be pursued if we are looking for our own reward at the expense of others.
I know that the practitioners of this would say that they do not do this, but in reality, how can that be supported? The bible clearly shows how God rewards people. However, he does so on his desire and not because we “name it and claim it” or “visualize it”. If we are so self focused that our prayer and faith life is structured only on what we want, how can we say we are serving God. I think Peter should feel better about denying Christ in the courtyard of the Sanhedrin than any preacher should ever feel about preaching this garbage. If a person can reconcile owning a Bentley while members of their congregation go without food to help fund it, their moral compass is so off I am surprised they can find their way to work. I am overwhelmingly concerned that this kind of garbage is seen as acceptable and actually thrives.
The church’s job is to provide a safe place to experience God and support his people’s relationship with him. If people are using it as a venue to make money, they are missing the point entirely. The prevalent idea is that God wants his children to be happy. The Bible never says this. The word happy in modern terms is a state of being. The words used that are translated into “happy” in the bible refer to recognizing the blessings God has given you, not being in a state of continuous reception of good things. God promises to care for us. In order for that to occur, we need to be serving him and following his direction in our lives. If we choose to live outside that direction, we choose to live outside that care. That does not mean that bad things will not occur. Telling a person that bad things happened to them because their faith was poor is frankly cruel and should be condemned. The bible never says that things will always be good, bad things will happen. Our ability to be content in all circumstances is what should determine happiness, not a Mercedes.
I am sure that when I stand before the Almighty God, there will be many things that his presence will expose in me that I will not want to have exposed. I do not see how people who preach this type of gospel will even be able to say they did with a straight face. God expects us to live sacrificially for the sake of others, not build designer kitchens in our mansions while children die from hunger. The simplest way to say it is that we need to focus on God and stop focusing on ourselves.
Why doesn’t God love gay people? I would hope that Christians would immediately say, “He does love them.” However I am fairly certain some churches would have concerns if they suddenly received a ten percent influx of visitors next Sunday, who happened to be gay. Homosexuality is one of the biggest social concerns affecting our churches today and it is not a new subject. I adamantly proclaim God does love gay people. Unfortunately, based upon church history in the last few decades, I can understand why people might think the church feels God doesn’t. We have a real problem if our excitement for visitors is truly proportionate to our ability to accept them based on how dirty we think they are. I am certain Christ would disagree with our praxis if we tell God which of his children we want to work with. The church’s stance on the subject of Homosexuality ranges from hypersensitive to possibly sinful, so I am going to suggest we rethink our position on how we address Homosexuality. Now, before you stop reading and dismiss this idea as anywhere from ridiculous to heretical, please take a few minutes to read through this article, think through what I am saying, and decide for yourself. Maybe by the end a voice in your heart will tell you to forget it, or maybe you will find a voice in your heart to help me set a trend that could change our world. I am going to propose we look at Homosexuality, why we say it is outside of God’s plan, and then rethink how the church should communicate that and deal with it.
There are a handful of biblical references that either directly or indirectly address homosexuality. The purpose of this article is not to offer a critical textual analysis of them to attempt to define the ultimate truth. The verses are clear; and simply put, the more we openly debate the biblical text regarding this issue, the more we obfuscate its relevance. We need to review them though to understand what it says. The bible offers direct prohibition of homosexual sexual practice in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). In the same law it also says that if a man commits adultery he should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10), if a child curses their parents they should be put to death (Leviticus 20:9), and if a married couple has sex during the woman’s menstruation cycle, they should both be cut off from the people (Leviticus 20:18). We seem to be very willing to support some laws and not interested in supporting others. I am not suggesting we stop reading Leviticus, but there is a good reason why most churches don’t “preach through” this book. Simply put, it requires a great deal of context and background to understand. Therefore I am going to posit that we should not use Leviticus as the proof text for our arguments against Homosexuality.
Another argument used by the church is from Sodom and Gomorrah. Etymologically we get the word Sodomy from this, and have used the word Sodomites to refer to Homosexuals. Genesis 13 tells us that the people of Sodom were wicked and sinned greatly. Genesis 18 reiterates this but neither explains directly what that sin is. The following passage from Genesis 19 explains the immorality that was rampant in the city.
4Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” (Genesis 19:4-5, NIV)
It is ridiculous to use this text to prohibit homosexuality because it looks nothing like homosexuality; it does however look an awful lot like gang rape. Are we really expecting the world to equate two men or two women having consensual sex with gang rape? There is no comparison. An ancient city full of people willing to commit aberrant crimes of forced sex has no relation to modern people engaging in alternative sexual expression. Frankly Christians look like idiots when we say the two are the same. I think this argument causes more problems for Christians than for homosexuals, as it indicates we are a hypocritical people who don’t even closely read our own bible.
Additional prohibitions exist in 1 Corinthians and 1Timothy. These verses contain the Greek words arsenokoitai and malakoi . These words are traditionally translated as homosexual and effeminate, yet there has been a lot of discussion about their true meaning over the years. Some feel that arsenokoitai is a translation of a Hebrew phrase in the Holiness code in Leviticus regarding the prohibition of a “man lying with a man as a woman”. The word malakoi is generally accepted to refer to the passive partner in the ancient Greek and Roman practice of Pederasty. This practice involved an older man courting and engaging in sexual relations with an adolescent boy. I personally feel that the latter translations and scholarly views on the terms are actually correct. Beyond offering a proposed solution to the historical conundrum of understanding ancient cultural oddities, this gives us nothing. Neither reference contextually refers to the modern practice of homosexual coupling. If we need to educate a person on the Hebrew and Greek in order to present God’s take on a modern dilemma, maybe we are trying too hard. These verses seem to be used to try to win arguments more than they are used to save souls. I am quite certain God is less pleased with our practice of arguing with sinners rather than showing them God’s enduring love and pointing them to salvation.
This leaves the most powerful reference in Romans 1. Paul is trying to deliver the message of Christ to a non Jewish world. He begins his treatise by envisioning the world in its infancy stage. He explains that people knew God, but did not glorify him or give him thanks. Because of this, God allowed them to continue the path they were on so their hearts darkened, and their thoughts became futile. They replaced the glory of God with selfish desire and allowed that desire to control them. God did not stop this from happening, because man exchanged the truth of God for a lie about themselves. In simple terms, they rebelled against God and became their own gods. Homosexuality then enters the picture, both for women and men.
“For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Rom 1:26-27 NAS)
This passage clearly states that homosexual behavior is outside the will of God. It is and always has been an act that God wants mankind to steer clear of. It is not an evil entity by itself; rather it is seen as a byproduct of rebellion. It is a symptom of the disease and not the disease itself.
We use Romans 1 to declare homosexuality to be vile by the nature of this act and demonize it in and of itself. We do ourselves a great disservice by doing that because we miss the fact that it is not the first, last, or even the most prevalently mentioned symptom of rebellion against God. All sexual immorality is condemned by this passage along with idolatry, every type of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. If we as a church really want to honor God by preaching Romans 1 to proclaim his name, why do we solely focus on homosexuality? Why do we not pursue the other condemnations like we do homosexuality? I am ashamed to say this, but it appears we are not as bothered by the other symptoms, so we target a specific symptom, while letting the disease continue.
Homosexuals feel sexual attraction to people of the same sex, and it is irrelevant whether this desire is innate or whether it is learned through societal interaction. They take action on that desire proclaiming dominion over God by saying that their sexual desires outweigh his authority to declare what is right. Homosexual interaction is not more or less offensive to God than any other sin. The real problem is the abject rebellion declaring God has no right to regulate human behavior. Unfortunately this is rarely the center of the discussion by Christians. Some have branded Homosexuals as aberrant and less than human because of this sin, while other Christians go so far the other direction that they lessen God’s authority themselves in a “more loving” approach. Realistically neither direction is right, as we can neither reject God’s authority, nor usurp his power. We need to stop treating sin like something people are getting away with, and start treating sin like something people need to recover from.
Rather than approaching people who are lost due to their sins, we have alienated groups of people based upon our fear and dislike of a specific sin. We have created so many walls between ourselves and these groups that we may never be able to fully break them down. Homosexuality is not a cultural oddity that will pass away from our society. While our nation is currently at war with active troops dying in a foreign land, one of the largest social concerns in our country is “Gay rights”. Our world is not thinking correctly, and the Church should be the compass that helps the world find direction, but we are not doing that effectively. The current condition of the world is my evidence.
We need to start by setting our own compasses in the right direction. We can do this by asking for forgiveness from God, and then from the homosexuals that we have persecuted. What do you think would happen if every Christian who knew a homosexual went to that person and asked forgiveness for the bigoted, selfish, hateful, and foolish ways they were treated, or just forgiveness for not speaking out about it sooner? By doing this, we are not changing our doctrine to say that God now accepts the behavior but the act of asking forgiveness could reopen the lines of communications between a group who knows they are lost due to sin, and a group who still needs to recognize that.
Secondly, we should take a special collection from our own congregations and have the money donated to AIDS research. How do you think the world would react if the Christian church donated millions of dollars to research a cure for that devastating disease? I do not think this will fix all of the problems, but I do believe it will tell the world we are serious about what we believe and are willing to do something about it. This act alone may even give us the opportunity to talk to people and not just talk at them.
Thirdly, we should stop trying to fix Homosexuals. They are not broken machines. They are creations of God that have been damaged by sin. This damage cannot be fixed by reforming orientation by our understanding of propriety. We need to be willing to accept that we don’t have a solution. Only God can repair the damage through the love and forgiveness of his son. We can accept homosexuals as God’s children and show them the God who can heal them. This does not mean that Homosexuals will stop being attracted to the same sex. Churches will have to accept that people in their congregations will still be tempted to sin, so we will need to do a better job of supporting them.
Lastly, I think we should actively pray for these people. While the church’s history with homosexuals may not engender an appreciation of our prayers, we should do it anyway. Start with the people you know and pray for them regularly. Make an active effort in your prayer life to love that person enough to raise them up to God and ask him to intervene in their lives. If we are lucky enough, He will use us to do that.
The church is in crisis mode now and becoming more socially irrelevant daily. We are in a world that is spinning out of our control, but realistically it has never been in our control. We need to stop pointing fingers at other people and spend more time loving all of God’s people, because our actions say more than our words ever could. We are only given so much time on Earth, and ultimately we do not know how much time we have left to address our sins against homosexuals. When we stand before our God, will we be able to explain why we took his impartial and everlasting love and chose to only show it partially and in short supply? God calls us to be the light in the darkness, not to be a cause of darkness. If we band together as brothers and sisters in Christ, taking our jobs as churches seriously, I think we can change the world for the better.
You now have a choice. Throw this article away, dismissing it as heretical garbage, or act on it by helping break down the walls between the church and the homosexual community. Take time to pray about your choice and listen to the Spirit. If we truly listen to the Spirit, He will guide us through all of the world’s challenges. I am confident if we all do that, then we will be closer to each other, closer to God, and closer to tearing down the walls we have built.
I was reading awhile back about Christian Agnosticism. This is a variant on Agnostic Theism. I get Agnostic Theism. Simply put Agnostics Theists believe there is a god, but don’t feel we have the ability to truly know him. I don’t agree with that proposal but I understand what they are proposing and why that may be attractive to them. Christian Agnosticism however baffles me. Don’t get me wrong this is not a new philosophy and it is not the definition that troubles me. Basically put Christian Agnostics believe that there is a god and that Christ had a connection to that god. They value some of the teachings of Christ and follow them. The part that is confusing is how that is called “Christian”. In Acts 11, Luke explains the early church disciples of Jesus were first called Christians. These people were devoted to the teachings of Christ, all of them. Christian Agnostics choose which teachings are followed. They choose the moral teachings such as “love your neighbor as yourself” and “blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy”. They however do not follow the teachings of Christ about God. Such as John 5:21-27:
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father. 24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
I agree with some of the teachings of the Buddha but that does not make me a Buddhist. I agree with some teachings of Hinduism but that does not make me a Hindu. In the same way, agreeing with or even abiding by some of the teachings of Christ does not make a person a Christian.
The only real documents regarding the teachings of Christ are in the Bible. If a person feels the bible is not worthy of trust and does not want to follow it, I get it. I don’t agree but I get it. Agreeing with only parts I get. I don’t agree but I get it. Choosing parts and then saying they are a follower I don’t get. If mankind is the one who determines what to believe, then we are believing in ourselves and not God. No matter how we defend it, if we create the definitions of god, we are only following ourselves
In 1859 Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” and posited his view that all species evolve from common ancestors. This book contained scientific theory that was aimed at the scientific community. At the time the Church of England was very involved with this community so the reactions to it started immediately and have reverberated through the Church in general ever sense. Other scientists have extrapolated from these concepts and contributed various aspects of modern Evolutionary Theories. These concepts range from genome mapping to cosmological models. Christianity has refuted these theories from almost the onset and as evidence for their veracity mounts, Christians seem to argue all the more. I really need to ask why?
I am by no means an expert in Evolutionary Science and will never be. I do however know how scientific theory works. Scientific facts are really facts as of today and will cease to be facts if enough evidence arises to disprove them. Scientific constants can change and are represented with standard error rates from the mean. Scientists disagree regularly with each other on their findings and conclusions. None of this disproves or even causes question in the scientific process or Evolutionary Theory, quite frankly it supports it through a commitment to the validity of the evidentiary process. Science in a very general view is an attempt to draw conclusions from factual data for the purpose of understanding how our universe operates. What I am unclear on is why this ever was or should be a problem for the church? I understand the history, but I think we have kind of missed the point.
Christians use the Bible to refute scientific findings. I am a firm believer in the value of and authority of the biblical text in my and the church’s life. It however is not now nor has it ever been a scientific or even a historical document. That was never its purpose. The purpose was and is to communicate how God has worked through his people and how that inspires us to be in relationship with him. To try and use it as a counterpoint to scientific discovery falls flat quickly.
There are huge differences between the who, the how, and the why. We are not at all in jeopardy philosophically or theologically to say that evidence in the current scientific model supports a very old earth beginning with a collision of atomic matter expanding with heat and cooling to allow the creation of subatomic particles (my apologies if I misstated that). This theory is a good one and worth review but not concrete and does not conflict with the text. The Bible clearly shows God spoke the world into being. It does not claim how or when and to require a Houdini-esque magic show causing things to create in a 24 hour window adds far more to the story than it states. Human evolution is similar. I think there are several solid questions that make the idea of monkeys turning into men untenable. But realistically countering it with an image of God blowing air into dirt doesn’t seem feasible. Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that God created man. The imagery mentioned however is not meant to explain it on a scientific level.
The Discovery Institute proposed a concept called Intelligent Design that attempts to blend the two sides on the basis that the complexity of features (their word, not mine) of the universe indicate an intelligent cause but even that offers far more structure than needed. It seems more and more like we are trying to place a square peg in a round hole. Science and Faith are separate. My Faith expects me to live a life that glorifies my God, not have to have the definitive answer to every question. He doesn’t need us to defend him by taking his word and forcing it into places that it does not belong. I am reasonably certain that if my oldest ancestor was Adam or Cheeta, or for that matter the world first looked like a garden or primordial stew, God is still God and man can either accept that or choose to try and beat it which never really turns out like we want. The Bible is a book of hope, faith, and love. If we spend effort and energy trying to prove science wrong using the Bible, the only thing we will prove is that we don’t really know what is says.