Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Not long ago a friend was attacking what I consider to be a caricature of “Lordship salvation” (a term which seems to foster much confusion and consternation). He wrote, somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “if you get GRACE because ya ‘live fer Jesus,’ then...what yer gittin...ISN'T GRACE!!! 

Below is my response. 

************************* 

As for "Lordship salvation:" I'm not exactly sure what you envision when you say this. I'm guessing you equate "Lordship" with "legalism." But I want to focus on the word salvation. What does the concept of salvation entail? 

I understand that to be saved is to be regenerated, to be born again, to be a new creation. Such terminology connotes change (as does the term conversion.) 

And so I ask: Changed how? (Notice, I am speaking of God's activity—not man's.) God CHANGES us (when He regenerates us) how? 

The change God brings is not physical or biological. It is spiritual. The Bible is clear: God changes the heart. 

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them (Ezek. 36:25-27). 

We are not speaking of changing ourselves. Rather, the God of promise pledges to make these changes for us—regeneration is what God does to us. 

Thus, salvation isn’t a matter of me changing my behavior. It’s a matter of God changing my heart which inevitably results in a change of behavior—the byproduct of a changed mind. 

Think on it: How can the regenerated, new heart of flesh have no impact or influence on the mind and behavior? How can one logically say, “I feel towards God and I think and I reason and I behave just as I always have. I have been born again!”  

So, the question is this: Can God convert me but not change me? If words mean anything, I don’t see how.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Phil vs. The GLAADiators, pt. 2

And now for a little cultural commentary on the “Duck Dynasty” dust up. 

To begin, I would like to consider the persecution our brothers and sisters in Christ face in other cultures. Antichrists all over the Islamic world and in places such as North Korea are imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering literally thousands of Christians every year.  

Yet we hear relatively little of these travesties in the news or in the pews. 

But when the enemies of our Lord dare to fire a beloved Christian reality TV star…there’s hell to pay. The antichrists have gone too far this time!  

(Hopefully A&E will learn what many churches already know: One simply does not come between American Christians and their entertainment.) 

But let’s be clear here. There’s far more to this than depriving us of our good times. The matters at hand have much deeper significance than the Robertsons and must see TV. So we are quite justified in thinking and writing of these things. 

First, if we have eyes to see, this incident offers us a revelation of sorts: GLAADiators will never be content with simply having “gay marriage.”  

So-called “equal protection under the law” is of little consequence so long as Bible-believing Christians are free to voice God’s displeasure. Mark my words, GLAADiators will neither sleep nor slumber until biblical sexual morality is merely a vestige of the past.  

And contrary to what we’ve been told, GLAADiators are not desirous of tolerance. To tolerate a GLAADiator is to offend him and/or her. They demand affirmation and approval. To GLAADiators, anything short of unqualified approbation is simply unacceptable. Even the slightest hint of disapproval is hastily labeled: “Hate speech.”   

This mislabeling brings us to the vital issue of freedom of thought and expression—a  cultural, not a constitutional matter at this point.
 
This isn’t a First Amendment issue because the First Amendment has to do with "Congress shall make no law . . ." Rather, this has to do with free expression in the public square. There are more ways than one to stifle debate and public discourse. In other words, all societies inevitably "censor" speech. That is, there are some things that just can't be said... 

The question is, is Christian moral teaching—as it pertains to sex outside of natural marriage—being successfully caricatured as "hate speech" and thereby deemed "intolerable" by the culture at large.  

Are Christians free to speak biblically about homosexuality without being bullied and ostracized; without fear of losing their livelihood, etc.? The answer is all too clear, isn’t it? 

So while we may not be talking about the First Amendment, we are indeed talking about free speech (the true freedom to speak biblically and publicly without fear of reprisals). There was a day in America when Christians spoke without threats of molestation. That time is now behind us. 

But I trust that that time is also before us for the promise of God is this: The future is Christ’s, not antichrists’. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Phil vs. The GLAADiators

In my previous article I mused: “I can’t help but wonder when the LGBT troops will join the fracas because transracial Santa—despite the queer hat and suit—isn’t quite gay enough.”
 
As it turns out it wasn’t a long wait at all. The LGBT militants are out in full force attacking Santa’s not so jolly lookalike, Phil Robertson.
 
LGBT and their leftist storm-troopers are in quite a dither because Robertson had the audacity to say,
 
Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.
 
Thus far we’ve not had any of the aforementioned “drunkards” stumble forward or “swindlers” swing into action; but the “homosexual offenders” have come out with a vengeance. Predictably the ever shrill gay activist group, GLAAD, is decrying Robertson’s remarks as “vile.”
 
However, Phil’s “vile” remarks are merely a paraphrase of the Apostle Paul’s teaching found in 1Corinthinans 6:9.
 
And that’s the problem.
 
Much to GLAAD’s chagrin, Christians believe the Bible is true, that it is the word of God. Consequently, Christians believe morality is defined and imposed by God, not GLAAD. This belief makes GLAAD most unhappy, unhappy, unhappy.
 
To be sure GLAAD is partially correct—there is vileness here. But it’s not in the Duck Commander’s words. No, the vileness is in the raging lusts which fuel homosexual behavior.
 
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due (emphasis mine, Romans 1:26-27).
 
It has been said that truth is hate speech to those who hate truth. Surely this is correct. As the thought police grow increasingly bold and draconian, public discourse withers in the shadows of liberty’s fading sun.
 
You see, dear reader, there is one thing the “tolerance” crowd cannot tolerate: Freedom of thought and expression. It cannot tolerate such freedom because it cannot tolerate opposition. But oppose we must!
 
So don’t give in. Stand your ground. Speak your mind. And keep reading and thinking.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Unreason For The Season

          “The White Witch? Who is she?” 

“Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) 

Alas, it seems Christmas is assaulted in realms both real and imaginary. 

Oddly enough, in our bizarre world, Christmas is besieged on all sides. Secularists hate the true meaning of Xmas and traditionalists bemoan its loss. Christians fear the holiday is too pagan and atheists aver it isn’t pagan enough. 

And this year, the Christmas card has been upstaged by the race card. Rabid race baiters are tearing into Megyn Kelley like Tiny Tim on a Christmas ham. Why?  

Well, she apparently had the poor taste to claim that St. Nick is not only jolly, but also White. (Call me cynical, but I suspect the vitriol has less to do with Santa’s lack of color than Megyn’s. But…I digress.) 

I can’t help but wonder when the LGBT troops will join the fracas because transracial Santa—despite the queer hat and suit—isn’t quite gay enough.  

Or who knows when militant feminists will finally have had their fill of male-Santa? Break that glass ceiling, Mother Christmas! 

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” It’s a race-less, genderless creature that will late at night slip unnoticed into your home and leave behind some environmentally-friendly fun (unless, of course, you’re a Jehovah’s Witness). HO! HO! HO! 

The fact is our world is much weirder than Narnia. Ours is a mad world. 

Not long ago it was a different kind of mad. There’s a popular story of a peculiar incident in World War I.  

. . . on Christmas Eve of that first year of battle [1914] one of the most unusual events in military history took place on the western front. . . . the British began to hear a few German soldiers singing a Christmas carol. It was soon picked up along the German line as soldiers joined in harmonizing. The words were these: “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!” British troops immediately recognized the melody as “Silent Night, Holy Night” and began singing in English. 

That night, enemy soldiers sat around a campfire. They exchanged small gifts—chocolate bars, buttons, badges, and small tins of processed beef. Men, who only hours earlier had been shooting to kill, were now sharing Christmas festivities and showing each other family snapshots.

As quickly as the truce came, it went. But for a precious moment, Christmas magic interrupted the madness. How I wish it could interrupt it again. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Mockery of God

The other day I came across this sentiment (said to no one in particular): “We are to expose false teachers, not mock and scoff at them. . . . You may get away with putting them down with your little Christian friends but in the end you will give an account for how you treated every person.” 

I'm sure there are times when lines have been crossed. However, mocking false teachers and/or doctrines can be seen in several places in scripture. 

And so it was, at noon, that Elijah MOCKED them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy [“busy” means “relieving himself”], or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened” (emphasis mine, 1Kings 18:27). 

Isaiah is extremely caustic and mocking when he speaks of idolaters (e.g. 44:12-17).  

The Apostle Paul (1Cor. 11:5; 12:11) mocks false teachers in the Corinthian church and refers to them as “super apostles.” (Eminent or super “apostles” is dripping with sarcasm!) 

Even Jesus mocks false teachers with incredible irony and wit: 

Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch. . . . Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matt 15:14; 23:24). 

Thus, mocking false teachers and/or doctrines is not ungodly per se. Perhaps we should ask: What is the purpose, intention, motive or merit of the specific mockery in question. Does it instruct or does it merely wound? 

Even so, one should follow one’s conscience in such things. If one feels personally convicted, one should not engage in mocking false teachers and/or doctrines. At the same time, such a one need not issue a blanket condemnation of all others who think differently. 

We should not elevate our scruples above the standards of scripture.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

No Other Gods


You shall have no other gods before Me, (Exodus 20:3). 

Do Americans worship sports? When one considers how many billions of dollars and thousands of hours are dedicated to the industry (from Little League to Major League), a case could be made that in a very real sense we do. 

At the very least I think we have to say that it is amazing—mind numbing in fact—how seriously we take our sports. Now, I assure you, this is no diatribe against our favorite pastimes; but I would like to take a moment to reflect upon the matter. 

We rightly think of sports as bringing out the best in folks, particularly our kids: physical well-being, discipline, teamwork, selflessness, etc. And regardless of liberals and their hissy-fits…it’s healthy for children (especially the ones over 30) to learn to win and to lose graciously.  

You win some, you lose some. We’re not all equal in gifts and talents and abilities. Sometimes things don’t end as we think they will or should. That’s life. We can use sports to teach or illustrate these things. 

But while we often think of sports as manifesting the best in us, in actuality they commonly reveal the worst in us: selfishness, dishonesty, anger, arrogance, pettiness and so forth. These unseemly traits are not just seen on the field, but off the field—in the bleachers (maybe even more so). Sports turn many people ugly and vicious—sometimes even criminally violent. Why? 

Just what are sports anyway? 

I think we must say that sports properly belong to the category of entertainment. Those who play sports non-professionally are recreating and those who play sports professionally are entertaining. (This is why pro athletes are so highly paid. We revere entertainers. Indeed, we practically idolize them.)  

Either way, recreational or professional, for most of us sports are really nothing more than entertainment. Do we fail to see this?  

I’ve seen fans openly, unashamedly weep in both victory and defeat. There are people who soar with absolute euphoria or plunge into abject despair based upon nothing but the outcome of a game 

And our terminology doesn’t help us any.  

It’s odd to think of the rhetoric we use of sports. Though sports are entertainment we often use terms such as gutsy, brave and heroic to describe on-field performances. War metaphors are typical. We speak of “sudden death” and “battling it out” and “warriors.” Sports entertainers are commonly referred to as heroes 

No, I’m not suggesting that we change the vernacular. Only this: When we hear or say such things…remember…sports are merely entertainment. 

Sports—as entertainment—are in actuality distractions. Sports (not unlike movies, concerts, plays, board/card/video games and shopping sprees) are a means of forgetting one’s situation in life for a couple of hours. Obviously, all such “getaways” can be healthy or unhealthy—to speak biblically, lawful or sinful. 

So, when it comes to sports and all forms of entertainment—lest we fall into idolatry—the Christian should always seek to think and to behave to the glory of God. We should ask ourselves: Am I honoring God with my actions, attitudes, and priorities in regards to this sport/entertainment? 

That’s a sobering question. 

Well, that’s all the time I have for now. It’s October and I’m a life-long St. Louis Cardinals fan. So…you know what that means. I’ve got baseball to watch.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hath God Said?


Last eve I paused beside the blacksmith’s door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time. 

“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.” 

And so, I thought, the Anvil of God’s Word
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The Anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone.
~Attributed to John Clifford 

When an unbeliever denies the inspiration of scripture he usually parrots quite a laundry list of reasons to disbelieve. I’d like to take a quick look at some of them.  

Typically near the top of the list is the notion that the Bible is full of contradictions and errors. Yet, when pressed for specifics, in my experience, the non-believer knows precious little about the Bible and thus is long on assertions but short on demonstrations. 

The fact is the Church is well aware of apparent inconsistencies and textual problems and more than sufficiently deals with such things.  

Often we hear the charge that the Bible is utterly sexist, racist, and violent. And certainly, we can find all of these things in the sacred writ—these things and I’m sure more. But here the detractor of the faith fails to distinguish between that which the Bible describes and that which the Bible prescribes. (The distinction between description and prescription cannot be overstated.)  

Occasionally an unbeliever offers an objection to the sacredness of scripture by pointing out that all the world's belief systems share certain fundamental truths—that we should treat others as we would like to be treated, etc.—thus undermining the Bible as being uniquely revealed.  

But there is simply no logical reason to deny that the Bible is God’s word on the basis that there is a degree of commonality between it and other religious (and even secular) texts. A measure of similarity is precisely what one should expect given that there is but one living and true God who created the universe and all it contains and who made man a rational, moral being in His own image. 

This being so, I would go so far as to suggest that it would be unimaginably strange, perhaps inconceivable, for there to be little or no shared views between scripture and extra-biblical writings. 

While it is clearly the case that the Bible is written to and for God’s people, the skeptic nevertheless has an invested, self-interest in undermining its divine design. We are now speaking to the issue of authority 

The one who denies the holiness of the Bible becomes—in his lofty imagination—his own ultimate authority, the final arbiter of truth. That is, the unbeliever jettisons ancient faith anchored in scripture for nouveau fancy tethered to self.  

This is hardly progress.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Christian Unity


I do not pray for these alone [the Apostles], but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they may be one . . .that they also may be one in Us . . . that they may be one just as We are one . . . that they may be made perfect in one . . . (John 17:20, 21,22, 23). 

In the High Priestly prayer of our Lord, we find Christ earnestly interceding for the unity of all Christians (understood as those who believe in Christ according to apostolic witness).  

Has God answered the prayer of His Son? 

When we consider the apparent fragmentary condition of the Church, we may be tempted to answer, “No. Jesus’ desire for Christian unity is unfulfilled.” But we should resist this temptation. It is my conviction that God has in fact preserved the unity of His people: one flock with one Shepherd (John 10:16). 

The Church is unified. But what is the nature of its unity? 

Let’s begin by specifying what it isn’t. The nature of Christian unity is not ecclesiastical. That is, the one people of God meet all over the world in various local groups or churches. The one Church gathers in thousands of churches which belong to a myriad of denominations and/or associations. 

There is diversity. But that which unites the one Church is greater than that which would divide her. 

Let’s now consider what the unity of the one Church is 

According to Jesus, our unity is doctrinal. That is, Christ prays for “those who will believe in Me” in agreement with the “word” of the Apostles. We often hear the mantra: Doctrine divides. True enough, Christians do not see eye-to-eye in all matters of faith and practice.  

But surely we understand the much deeper truth that doctrine unites. Regarding doctrine, Augustine famously quipped: “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” 

The question now becomes: Is that which unites us (essential Christian truths) greater than that which divides us (non-essentials). I believe it is. It is the essence of our faith—the essentials—which CS Lewis envisions in Mere Christianity. 

Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times (from the preface to Mere Christianity). 

There are cardinal truths which all Christians in all times believe.
 
In addition to the doctrinal unity of all believers, we find the spiritual. We are spiritually joined to all Christians of all the ages. Jesus speaks of our spiritual communion as being twofold.  

First, He says all Christians of all the ages are “one in Us.” We are in the Father and Son.  

Second, the Father and Son are in us: “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23). Christians of all the ages are the one Body of Christ, the one Temple of God. 

Thus within the biblical Christian faith, doctrinal/spiritual unity is deeper than surface level diversity. And we can recognize this fact without compromising—in any sense—our distinctives. In other words, we can affirm our unity and not deny our diversity.  

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sez Who? pt. 2

The conversation continues. We have a different atheist with different questions but the same conundrum: Atheism has no basis for objective morality. That is, given its philosophical commitments, atheism cannot declare any action to be morally good or morally evil.  

The discussion is respectful and I pray beneficial. My interlocutor’s words appear bold and italicized 

*************** 

“Morality is a social contract that used common sense to protect the individual. I don't want to be killed, neither do you. Let's make a rule that says we can't kill each other!” 

I do not accept the claim that morality is merely a "social contract." Murder, rape, pedophilia, etc. are morally wrong regardless of what a particular culture/society may determine. 

“Do unto others as you would have done to you was not original to Jesus . . ." 

Of course not. (I don't know anyone who says otherwise.) 

"We just have to do our best and use common sense . . ." 

"Best" for what or whom? Who decides what "best" is? By what standard? (Some of the most heinous crimes against humanity were/are done in the name of the “common good.”) 

Furthermore, this statement of yours is a moral imperative. You are saying we OUGHT to do this. Why? Sez who? From where—in a mindless, purposeless universe—does such a moral imperative come? 

“I’d be happy to elaborate on why other moral actions are better than others if you want, but none of them require submitting to a totalitarian leader.” 

You mean which choices OUGHT to be made? By what standard do you determine this?

“Reason and logic [determine what choices ought to be made]. 

Whose “reason”? All sorts of moral evils are committed by those who believe they have a rational, justifiable reason to do such things.  

(Reason is predicated upon first principles. A person may use the exact same reason/logic as another…and arrive at vastly different conclusions if they think and reason according to disparate first principles. We see this played out every day when equally rational/logical folks—with different philosophies and worldviews—clash [we often refer to such clashes as “culture wars”].) 

"What morally good action can someone who believes in god make that someone who does not can't?" 

Your question has two assumptions: 

1) You assume that an action can be deemed “morally good” but you have no objective, authoritative standard by which to determine what is “morally good” and “morally evil.” (Thus far you’ve offered your opinions and preferences and nothing more.) 

2) You assume that “morally good action” involves horizontal relations but not vertical. But Jesus is clear: “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). 

Thus, according to Jesus Christ, the atheist cannot obey the FIRST and GREAT commandment; viz. the atheist cannot love God 

Again, according to Jesus Christ, to love God is morally good. And this, by definition, the atheist cannot do.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sez Who?

Recently an atheist made the wild assertion that if one were to “tally up” the bodies…Christianity is responsible for more killings than atheism. Of course, the claim contains more errors than words. 

Below are my response and the ensuing dialogue. My conversation partner’s words appear bold and italicized 

May God add His blessing your reading. 

************************* 

"Tallying up" death counts is little more than a red herring.

The question is not, "Who has murdered more?" but rather, "Is murder morally evil?"

Christianity has a developed, codified moral system by which it can determine that which is objectively morally "good" and that which objectively morally "evil."

Atheism has no such construct. Atheism cannot—given its presuppositions—determine murder to be truly, objectively, morally evil.

At best, all atheism can consistently say of murder is: "I don't like it personally" or "I think it should be avoided because it detracts from the happiness of folks."

(It may utter a barely coherent thesis that murder is "bad"—but not "bad" in a MORAL sense—for the propagation of our species. But this is of course, debatable. Murder may be little more than "thinning the herd" which is a "good" thing—“good" in a non-moral sense.)

When an atheist tries to decry murder (by borrowing from theistic morality) all one needs to do is respond: "Sez who?"
 

“How did you determine this objective moral system in particular?” 

Here you are laboring under the delusion that morality is defined by man. No. Morality is defined by God and imposed upon man—both internally and externally.  

“Ever heard of laws? What's the difference between objective morality and laws? Nothing.” 

What a na├»ve thing to say! That which is legal is not at all the same thing as that which is moral. Ever heard of “unjust” laws? Morality transcends man-made laws. How can you not understand this? (It’s very unfortunate that one who seems to delight in his own his intellect is utterly ignorant of the elementary distinction between “legal” and “moral.”) 

“And you think I can't say the same thing to god [Sez Who?]?” 

Well…no, not if He doesn’t exist. 

*************************** 

The simple truth is, dear reader, if there is no God, if all that exists is an “accident” of mindless, purposeless “causes;” then morality is nothing more than an illusion—our brains (not to be confused with “minds”) tricking us. The atheist can claim to believe this, but he cannot live in the day-to-day what he claims to believe. 

In fact, atheists can be downright puritanical when announcing their moral outrage towards the “evils” of religion.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Key to Scripture

Not long ago I observed that to properly view the Old Testament, one must look through the lens of Christ. 

A Christian friend immediately inquired,  

Isn't it the other way around? To properly understand Christ we must look through the lens (context) of the "Old Testament", of all that came before him and the environment in which he and his audience lived, worshipped, and understood all of God and life. Especially since he said he didn't come to abolish it? 

In answer to his query we turn to scripture. 

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. . . . For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me (John 5:39, 46). 

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. . . . Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”  And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27, 44-45).   

Notice, Luke says that Jesus “opened their understanding” so that they could “comprehend the Scriptures.” The Old Testament reveals Christ (in types, shadows, sacrifices, prophecies, and promises).  If one fails to see this—one misses the central point entirely. 

Said another way, the Old Testament cannot be properly understood without reference to Christ. The Old Testament is about Jesus. One can be an “expert” in the Old Testament and not truly understand it, if one does not interpret it in the light of Jesus Christ. 

Saint Augustine famously said, “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” Surely this is true. The Old and New testaments are the interrelated, cumulative revelation of God. But in order to recognize this, one must accept the Person and work of God’s Son.  

But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Cor. 3:14-16).  

In other words, Christ is the key to all scripture.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Just War" or Just War?

Something to consider: How would we Americans feel if the top leaders of a country (a country we never threatened or attacked) were publicly and unapologetically discussing their plans to strike us with missiles? 

This is precisely what our leaders are doing to Syria. 

Some argue for U.S. intervention thus: If one sees his neighbor beating his wife or children one ought to (that is to say, one is morally obligated to) intervene. This is to love one’s neighbor. So, the U.S. is morally obligated to protect the innocent anywhere and everywhere it possibly can. 

But such an analogy is flawed on at least two levels. 

First, this is nothing like what may or may not be happening in Syria. Syria is more like two adult males savaging each other for nobody knows why. If one sees two strange men slashing each other with knives for no discernible reason, is one morally obligated to intervene by taking it upon oneself to shoot one man in effort to save the other?  

Syria is in the midst of a civil war. And as is the case with many civil wars it can be more than a little challenging to know who—if anyone—is wearing the white hats. Furthermore, like all civil wars, innocent non-combatants are caught in the middle. (Hence the “noble rebels” are fond of fighting Assad by killing Christians.) 

Second, the proffered analogy and application confuse categories. That is, the analogy and its application conflate personal, individual ethics with the ethics of the State. Individual ethics and State ethics are two very different things. Such conflation is wrong-headed and can even be dangerous. (Yes, war can be dangerous.) 

Speaking of the Christian’s duty to “love one’s neighbor” with cruise missiles, the 16th century reformer Pierre Viret said, “There is nothing which Christians should be more wary to employ nor which is less suited to their profession [than war]” (Joel McDurmon, The Bible & War in America, p. 29). 

Yet oddly enough, it seems American Christians are often eager to beat the drums of war. After all, what’s wrong with fighting when one is always on the side of the angels? But are our wars Just or are they just wars? 

Contemplate these “Just War” principles: 

·         A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.

·         A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause. Further, a just war can only be fought with "right" intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.

·         The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.

·         The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.

·         The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

Do the above tenets justify the majority of America’s war waging? 

Some argue that America wages war as God’s instrument of wrath. True, God does use nations to judge other nations, but it would be incredibly presumptuous of us—or any nation—to arrogate to ourselves the role of God's "super police-state." 

Of course, God can do to and with the United States what He wills. God is sovereign. But God’s sovereign prerogatives in no way render the actions of a warring nation morally justified.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why Are We Saved?


Recently I had a man pose this defeater dilemma: “Did God save us because He needed to? Or because we need Him to? 

He asked me this because I pointed out to him that his gospel presentation was entirely man-centered, not Christ-centered. 

Below is my answer to him. May God add His blessing to your reading. 

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Your statement in the form of a question is an example of a false dichotomy. Not only have you presented me with a logical either/or fallacy, but the premises you’ve offered—all two them—are equally wrong-headed.  

Therefore I choose neither “A” nor “B;” but “C”: None of the above. 

But let us consider the options in the order of their appearance. 

First: Did God save us because He needed to? Of course, the answer to this query is “no.” God is a perfect Being who needs nothing because there is no lack or privation in Him. 

Second: Does God save us because we need Him to? This is tantamount to asking, “Does God save us because we’re lost?” It’s somewhat tautological.  

But, again, the biblical answer is “no.” God does not save us BECAUSE we need Him to. Taken to its logical conclusion, this unbiblical notion (“God saves us BECAUSE we need Him to”) leads to Universalism.  

(That is, if sinners are saved BECAUSE they need salvation; and all sinners need salvation; then God must save all sinners BECAUSE all sinners need to be saved and the sinners’ need is the cause of God’s saving.) 

Universalism, however, is beyond the pale of Protestant orthodoxy. 

And so, we cannot say that God saves sinners because sinners need Him to. Rather, we must say—with scripture—that God saves sinners because God is gracious and merciful. God saves sinners because it is His will to do so. God saves sinners to His own glory. 

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. . . . In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:4-6,11-12). 

Scripture couldn’t be clearer.