Monday, November 5, 2012

Disagree without being Disagreeable

In an attempt to maintain an open and fair discussion on controversial topics a friend of mine has requested I refrain from mentioning my views or opinions on his blog.  He has also taken to deleting my existing answers to his questions and then ridiculing me for failing to provide answers to his questions.  When I asked if editing, deleting, or removing my posts was akin to censorship I was informed that his actions should not be confused with censorship.  He fully supports Freedom of Speech, just not for me on his blog.

At first he asked me to refrain from commenting on religious matters.  After a couple days of thinking this over, in an attempt to be civil I agreed I could refrain, but asked if I might respond to questions aimed directly at me by name.

When I asked my friend if I had been rude or uncivil I was informed I had done nothing wrong, but my views were no longer welcome.  He also wanted me not to mention Jesus in my personal e-mails to him when he himself was discussing religious matters or expressing his opinions. I appreciate his honesty and candor even if I can’t fully agree with his actions.

I do not want to ridicule him; I do understand a blog is an extension of your self which exists in cyberspace; you shouldn’t have to allow everyone and anyone to post what ever they want.  Profanity, explicit materials, and spam advertising is routinely removed from most blogs.  Trolls and muckrakers are another problem, there is a balance between shutting up an idiot and allowing for honest discourse; it takes skill and discernment to distinguish between the two.  I always endeavor to abide by the guidelines of the owner of a blog or website; I believe in civil disagreement.  One of the best ways to strengthen your opinion or argument is to be kind and courteous.  Disagree without being overly disagreeable.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now? (shellfish part 3)

In fairness, I want to present my discussion of the homosexual shellfish Levitical law discussion I had with my friend by presenting both sides.  I think we both presented our views with sincerity, but I wish I could have been a bit more clear or more articulate in explaining my side.

Here is my friend's most recent response:

NO, I didn't bother reading all of this as it wasn't what I asked about. You clearly don't follow the no eating of fat rule, the cutting of hair and beard. So why are you sticking to the no gay sex rule? If you can change others then they aren't written in stone and can be modified or abandoned.

As am I, rules and 'laws' of your religion do not apply to others outside of your religion. Can you not see that?

But still, you seem to follow some of the rules/laws while ignoring others. If you can ignore the shellfish one, or eating fat, or shaving, then WHY are you still adhering to the no gay people rule?

And just so you know, man can't lay with another man as he would a woman, as he clearly doesn't have a vagina.

AH... I am SOO not going to read an 8000 word essay  when you can simply answer "I follow them because those are what I'm told to follow." Or 'Because god told me."

 It should not take 8000 words to answer a simple question. So I'm seriously doubting you actually gave me one. It's more drivel like that incredibly stupid webpage you sent. If there is an aswer is all the words then send me that.

NO, moral laws are binding to each civilization and are CONSTENTLY changing. This has been shown scientifically AND anyone with any history knowledge can see this Slavery bad, wife burning bad, but they used to be common. And they aren't actually laws as much guidelines, and they change with human needs and cultures. There are NO moral absolutes. And appealing to your book on this will not hold ANY sway with me, as the 'morals' in it are horrible.

Here is my follow up:

Ahh, I see the problem, you didn't read my answer.  Okay, this helps explains things.  Do you wish to correct this? 

Again, I have already addressed this in my first post.  Moral laws are binding for all people for all time, cultural pre-Messianic social code rules are binding only to pre-Messianic Jews.  Jesus has come, temporal rules are over, but moral laws will never go away.

You are correct you are a not an Orthodox or Hasidic Jew, neither am I.  WE don't observe their religious customs.

Moral laws are not religious only laws.  Moral laws are for all people for all time in all cultures.  When God gave rules and said these are just for you Jews until Messiah comes, those laws were given with specific limits, sort of like I can expect my kids to keep my house's rule of conduct, but I don't go over and punish the neighbor's kids for swearing.

Agreeing to Disagree (shellfish part 2)

The following is how I chose to close my disagreement (from my previous post) with my friend over shellfish and the Levitical Bible laws. 

With disagreements we must avoid the trap of arguing rather than discussing.  To be sure it is impossible to correctly answer a rant over the Bible’s moral laws, so we must research and actually ask questions about specific verses (what the Bible actually says) as opposed to a string of poorly worded indictments.  Because there is a type of unreasoned argument (the scoffer, the eternal critic, the foolish jeering misaligner of motives) which pops up frequently against Christianity, many apologists have worked to counter such fallacious arguments.  I tend to find these exchanges, the scoffer vs. logic, the least productive; they aren’t actually discussions with both sides weighing and testing the strengths of each side’s hypothesis.  They tend to be shouting matches with at least one side screaming that the superiority of, and the legitimacy of their conclusions must be recognized.  In those cases no distinction is made between opinions and facts.  Discussing is working toward a conclusion, not insisting on it from the front end and denying any information which does not affirm the preconceived conclusion. 

Even if you totally deem my belief system to be false, civil communication rules dictate you must consider it as I have presented it, be able to understand it without distorting it, be able to repeat it, and then state your perceived weaknesses of the system as it actually has been presented, in turn I must do the same for your beliefs.  The first step is for you to show you have understood what my point was; then I will respond by affirming or denying your presentation of the original belief system.  If I deny it-you must work to better comprehend, otherwise there is no point in me defending a belief you have not understood and/or one I do not hold to.  If I affirm you have correctly understood the belief system I will address your logic based disagreement with a particular aspect of the belief.  In this manner a discussion may continue, even if no mutually agreed upon conclusion is reached.  I work hard to understand other people’s positions.  I read posts and supporting materials provided, so that I may show respect to people and so we might have an informed discussion.  Christianity is virile enough to defeat any counter thought system at maximum strength and presented in its purest form; I fear no counter-argument against my faith, in fact I welcome them. Understanding is the goal, not forced agreement.

I believe I have presented a pretty good case for why I believe what I do and how it jives with Christian logic.

Why Can Christians Eat Shrimp? (shellfish part 1)

This post is a response I gave to a friend who wanted to know why certain Biblical laws like eating shellfish are no longer upheld in Christian churches and why rules for marriage are still the same as when God first gave them.  It was a bit of an exercise in futility, as my friend didn’t really understand the blog post, and I’m not certain he actually read it since he said it didn’t deal with the matter of God’s unchanging laws.  As I read it, it seems to deal specifically with that matter and especially the shellfish argument he raised.

My first response was to direct him to the excellent blog: Eternity Matters where it deals with this issue.  I used parts of that entry in forming my response.

First off the two verses you gave Leviticus 11:10 and 18:22 use two different words for detestable or abomination.  The Old Testament was written in Hebrew so the original language must be consulted rather than arguing against an English translation.  This is a fundamental flaw with the shellfish argument which most critics build their entire case off of, it shows a very shallow investigative effort.

But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales--whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water--you are to detest (Hebrew word used is sheqets)Leviticus 11:10

sheqets: detestation, detestable thing
Original Word: שֶׁ֫קֶץ
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Transliteration: sheqets
Phonetic Spelling: (sheh'-kets)
Short Definition: detestable

'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable (Hebrew word used is toebah)." Leviticus 18:22

toebah: abomination
Original Word: תּוֹעֵבָה
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
Transliteration: toebah
Phonetic Spelling: (to-ay-baw')
Short Definition: abominations

Even a plain reading of the passages shows that the homosexual behavior is considered detestable to God, whereas the shellfish are to be detestable to the Israelites because it made them ceremonially unclean.  Those are key differences.  Being detestable to God is different than being detestable to a person.  So the shellfish/homosexual argument collapses with a minimal effort of linguistic examination, but that doesn’t tend to deter most critics who are looking for a way to mischaracterize the Bible as foolish and obsolete.

The Bible states sex is for marriage.  Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. 

No discussions are necessary if you accept the Bible at its word.  So the Bible is clear and simple.  If you want an explanation that can be long and complex; if you find you are unable or unwilling to accept the Bible at face value you can continue reading, but you don’t have to.

The simple answer is the Bible makes many exclusionary judgment calls; following God’s Word requires discernment and the use of non-contradictory logic.  The Bible states sex is for married people only, by the law of reason this means non-married people are not allowed to have sex according to God’s law.  It is physically possible to have sex outside of marriage, just not morally acceptable according to God’s expressed will.  So “sex is for marriage” is only half the answer.  The second half is the answer to the question, “what is marriage?”  The Bible states marriage is a man and a woman united for life.  Again, it is possible to socially distort the idea of marriage in numerous ways, but morally only a man and a woman fits the Biblical description of marriage. 

Why is the Bible not affirming of homosexual sex?  Besides the numerous specific statements warning against homosexual activity, the Bible is for sex inside of marriage only, marriage is a husband and a wife; homosexual sex fails on both counts-not inside marriage, not a man and a woman.  Non-contradictory logic will not allow variations to the Bible’s historically recorded definition of the covenant of marriage, so Christianity is not anti-gay, anti-homosexuality, anti-freedom, etc.  Christianity is pro-marriage; to try to frame the argument in any other manner is a distortion of both the Bible and logic.  Does the Bible affirm homosexual unions?  No, it could not unless it compromised the meaning of Marriage.

To be sure the Bible records many distortions of the one man and one woman view for marriage.  It records broken marriages, divorce, affairs, multiple wives, and concubines.  You even have God ordering an Israelite man to take his brother’s wife to provide her with an offspring.  At first marriage seems to be a pretty simple concept, but when it is applied to a sinful idolatrous people it gets messy pretty quick.  The Bible is unified in its overall approach to human relations, but it also has culturally specific ramifications which must be understood or the overall picture is distorted.  Scoffers and critics tend to latch onto one verse or cultural application and then ignore or refuse to consider the bigger picture.  So instead of rabbit trailing down every path, let us concentrate on the big picture and your specific question.

Does the Bible promote hatred of gays?  Only if you believe the message of the Bible is absolute hatred of all people.  Homosexual sexual activity is a sin.  Heterosexual sexual activity is a sin when not in marriage.  Lying is a sin.  Greed is a sin.  Egotistical pride in one’s self is a sin.  Gossiping is a sin.  Stealing is a sin.  Hating your brother or sister is a sin.  Failing to love those who disagree with your or who are your enemy is a sin.  In short disobeying God is a sin, choosing our own way over His is a sin.
Question: Who sins?  Answer: Sinners. 
Question: Who is a Sinner?  Answer:  Every person who ever lived (except for Jesus.) 
Question:  Who does God love?  Answer: Sinners. 

In fact God loves all sinners so much He wants to stop the destruction of their joy by the ongoing effects of sin.  God also hates the self righteous who by their hypocritical acceptance of His mercy distort His love into a rules based system.   God does not “hate fags”, but those who hold signs or placards which state this misguided sentiment are painting a big red bullseye on themselves to be objects of God’s wraith.

Why do laws regarding marriage remain static while some other laws change over time?  The Bible reveals both an unchanging moral ethical code based in God’s unchanging character and the historical interaction of God with man within the confines of history.  In God’s original plan, perfect holiness is the goal for man.  After the fall of man into sin, this ideal was no longer both God’s will and reality.  Reality was God’s moral requirements were unchanged, God’s will had not changed, but man’s ability to live up to God’s requirements was totally destroyed.  God could at that point continue to relate to man demanding that men relate back to Him in perfection; this would result in total failure on man’s part and the eventual eternal separation between man and God.  Because God’s requirements are based in His unchanging character, God’s standards can not change unless His character changed, since His character traits are unchanging it is a divine Catch 22.  God could not change the requirements of man, but because God’s character is not just holy moral perfection, God is able to redeem man by relying on other aspects of His unchanging being-mainly His Love. 

God’s love is merciful, gracious, self-sacrificing, and restorative.  God’s mercy means rather than destroy us as God has every right to, He chooses to be patient, kind, and long suffering; God chooses to absorb the offenses we inflict upon Him so that we might have time to repent.  God is gracious, that is God gives ill-deserving sinners the opportunity to repent.  We aren’t simply undeserving, we are ill-deserving; it isn’t just we do not deserve God’s favor, but we actually by all accounts deserve God’s wraith.  God’s love is self-sacrificing; even though we are the ones with a debt, God chooses to seek and save the lost at great expense to Himself.  God’s love cost Him dearly, the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus-Christ, is not merely a religious concept, it is a personally devastating wounding to God.  God endured the cost of our sin to win us back; He paid the price we owed but could never repay.  Finally God’s love is restorative, not only are we brought back into acceptance with God, but God transforms us into beautiful living representations of His Character; we now not only reflect God’s goodness, but also the reality of His Love and its many traits.  As image bearers we now live as reflections of His loving, gracious, merciful, and restorative power.

So isn’t this all fancy double talk to get around the problem of the Bible holding onto certain laws while allowing other laws to fall by the wayside?

The restorative plan of God is called the Gospel.  The Gospel includes the historical record of man’s sin and God’s redeeming of fallen man.  The Gospel has both ramifications for mankind, and at a grander scale all of Creation; the Bible states the whole Universe is groaning for the restorative actions of God. The Gospel transforms sinful man into redeemed believers who focus on Jesus, who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done; the focus is not on whom we are and what we have done (or will do).  The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ.  To believe the Gospel is not to just to say it is a valid truth, it is to embody it, to become consumed and transformed by it, and live a new life centered on Christ.   Embracing Christ’s sacrifice for your sins is the only way to achieve and maintain a relationship with God; law keeping is useless for earning acceptance from God.  Jesus saves.

Did you catch that?  All law keeping is useless for earning God’s acceptance.  Arguing about what is and isn’t a moral law is a bit pointless, as it ignores the heart of Christianity-salvation unearned, but received merely by means of the gift of Christ.  The moral laws of the Bible are not our pathway to God, rather grace is.  Arguing what is and isn’t a sexual sin is pointless if you are trying to build a bridge to God, our moral efforts will fail.

Still because the Bible should be believed, we can address the perceived problems of changing laws.  We said the Bible is God interacting a plan in history, that isn’t empty information, a religious system (Christianity isn’t similar to the Gnostic understanding of knowledge) but it is supported by what has actually happened.  God has orchestrated all of history to be a living record of the invasion of Jesus, infinite God, into the confines of finite time and space.  The Bible in part is a record of the history of God enacting His Gospel plan.  The Bible records God’s interaction with ancient man as God lay the foundation for the cumulating act of the Gospel rescue plan-Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection.   The Bible records God creating man sinless, man choosing to reject God, God promising to send a Savior, and the coming of the Savior to restore man which signals the dawn of a new era for man which will conclude in the Savior coming again to judge.  So man would have an objective reason to believe in God, not just subjective feelings or ideas, God anchored the coming of Christ against the backdrop of recorded history.  God chose to utilize a small insignificant group of people, the Jews, to be a key character in the unfolding Gospel plan.  The Jewish people are key because they are unspectacular in every way, they are sinful, hard hearted, deceitful, adulterous, and idolatrous; in other words: exactly like us.

God chooses to relate to the Jews in a way specific to them, they receive special treatment, not so God could spoil them, they are singled out not only for blessing, but they also receive intense scrutiny from God for their daily lives.  Following God for the Jewish people was painfully uncomfortable and costly, they were forced to live under a strict code of social and religious laws so that they might understand how difficult (impossible) it is to maintain a relationship with God based off of performance.  Much of God’s code for social and religious conduct is found in the Bible’s Old Testament book called Leviticus.  The Levites were the priestly clan of Jews who were descendents of Levi the son of Jacob, Jacob is the son of Isaac, and Isaac is the son of Abraham. Levite priests had especially strict rules for their own conduct and also were charged with teaching strict social moral laws to the Jewish people in general.  The Jewish people received special regulations regarding food, clothes, work, marriage, sex, social interaction, cleanliness, money, family matters, and on and on and on the list goes. 

These social laws were specific to the Jewish people, they were not a means to a right moral relationship to God, it was a social code and an ongoing reminder that one day a Savior, the Messiah, would come and fulfill all the requirements of God for man to reenter into relationship with God.  The laws were not a means to acceptance, but a place holder, a marker, a bright red pointing arrow to the future declaring, “all is not well, but a time is coming when man will be truly redeemed.”  Christ is the Messiah, when He enters history He states He fulfills all of God’s requirements for man.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the law; in Christ the moral laws are upheld, and the strictly cultural rules of the Jewish people are now obsolete.  The cultural rules were a means to secure the Jews place in history as separate, apart from the rest of mankind, they were to endure hardship as they awaited the coming of the Messiah.  With the Messiah come, the specific cultural mandates are no longer needed, there is no longer a future Messiah to be pointed to, rather He is now here and to be received.  It is important to note in the discussion of homosexuality, this view is the center piece in the attempt to qualify homosexual sex as a legitimate option for Christians.  Liberal “pro-gay” theologians agree with conservative theologians that the Levitical code held many Jewish specific cultural rules for temporal conduct by only the pre-Messiah Jews.  The breakdown between pro-gay theologians and conservative theologians happens because the liberal gay-affirming theologian must avoid all that came before the book of Leviticus and all that came after the coming of Christ.  The Bible clearly shows Christ fulfilled all religious moral codes, but it does not say there are now no guidelines for Christian life.  The Bible clearly reveals a pathway of holiness not to achieve a right standing with God, but rather a pathway which expresses a changed life because you have received a right standing with God.

So no, God and Christians do not hate homosexuals.  Homosexuality is not the worse sin and it is not an unforgivable sin.  It is also not only a cultural, temporal, Jewish only restriction.  Before any Levitical laws were given to the Jewish people the concept of marriage was established, then marriage was again addressed within the Levitical Jewish laws, and the concept of marriage was repeated numerous times (most notably by Christ Himself) in the New Testament after the Levitical code was fulfilled.   

the following was my friend's response and critique of my post, I will leave it up to the reader if I covered his specific objection or not:

Dude, that is soo NOT what I asked.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

what is a Gospel centered church?

GOSPEL Centered Church
| Sola Scriptura | Sola Fide |Sola Gratia |
| Solo Christo | Soli Deo Gloria |

1 Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone")
2 Sola fide ("by faith alone")
3 Sola gratia ("by grace alone")
4 Solus Christus or Solo Christo ("Christ alone" or "through Christ alone")
5 Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone")

stream of consciousness

I wanted to see what kind of sermon I would preach if I just started rambling with no outline.  I wanted to see what I sounded like unedited...this is what you get for better or worse when I'm turned loose:

When the Church operates around programs and man’s power without dependence first on God’s indwelling and unifying Holy Spirit (who is in fact God), we present a community of do-gooders and people with the willpower to clean their own lives up.  A self-sufficient man powered church is repelling to the broken, the lost, the poor, the needy, and is also repulsive to the power of God who demands we come to Him in humility and repentance.

Man powered churches leave no room for God to dwell.  It isn’t a matter of preference of worship style, it is a counterfeit gospel, it steals the power of the true gospel and ignores the authority of the cross.  Never may it be. NO! 

The Gospel is for the sick, the weak, the failing, the poor, the down and out, those who are grieving, despairing and incapable of fixing things on their own.  We serve the God of the second chance, the third chance, the seventy times seven chances.  Broken people and broken lives get healed here by the power of the cross manifested by the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Our God does not tell us to get our acts together, try harder, will ourselves better, clean ourselves up.  NO!  Our God says give me the down trodden, the broken, the suffering, those who are screwed up by what has been done to them, or what they have done to themselves.  Our God is the redeemer.  Our God is the rescuer.  Our God is the all powerful loving LORD!  Don’t rob Him of His glory because you want to turn the church into a bunch of people following some form of spiritual self-help. 

Do not pretend we have got it all together.  And you better not pretend you are not a sinner.  Do not mock the God who died to free us from all that binds us to the darkness prevalent in our hearts.  Repent.  Get right with God, and He will take care of making you right. 

Don’t bother trying to clean yourself up.  Forget it, that is the way of the fool and the Pharisee.  You need Jesus.  You need a Savior.  You need a Lord for your life, because you aren’t fit for the job.  Don’t pretend otherwise.  The Church is not for the healthy, but for the sick. 

The Church is for the weak, the Church is for the losers, the Church is for the humble in spirit who know they are in trouble.  Preach your false prosperity Gospel somewhere else.  We’ve got trouble here.  We’ve got wounding here.  We’ve got real gut-wrenching needs here.  And we have a God big enough to fill every hole, every need, and mend every broken heart.  If you don’t have a hole for God to fill then you are either a liar or in denial.  Admit your need.  Admit your brokenness.  Admit your desperation and be healed.  He is good, he is willing to receive any and all who come to Him.  He has died and risen with you in mind.  He will not forsake you.  He will not leave you.  He will not abandon you.  He Has not left us alone as orphans.  He has promised Himself to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  You just need to receive Him.  You need Jesus.  Do it now.  It isn’t a charismatic thing.  It isn’t a Pentecostal thing.  It is a Jesus thing.  He promised He would send the Holy Spirit.  He operated in the power of the Spirit.  He told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit before they entered into ministry.  If Jesus said it was necessary and good, who are you to tell him otherwise? 

Have I offended you?  Good!  Be offended, but don’t leave here without the Holy Spirit.  Be offended enough to get right with God.  You know what is being challenged?  You know why you are offended?  Because your power struggle with God was just dragged into the light; you’ve been exposed.  You are uncomfortable with allowing the Holy Spirit to call the shots.  You are uncomfortable with the Holy Spirit ruling your heart.  You are uncomfortable with the demands the gospel will put on your life.  Look Christianity is free, but it costs you everything.  Quit kidding yourself, and quit toying with God.  Do it now, get right with Jesus.  Cry out for Him to save you.  Admit your need.  Admit your desperation.  Surrender to Jesus.  It is the best decision you will ever make.  He will afflict you, He will chasten you, He will chafe you, He will drive you, and in doing so, in allowing Him to inconvenience you, you will fall hopelessly and desperately in love with Him.  You will know Him and all your pains will be counted as joy for the intimacy with God it brings.  Let Him invade you.  Let Him master you.  Give in, surrender to His mighty embrace.  Allow Him to love you so you might know what real love is.