Monthly Archives: March 2014

Weekend Blog Review

blog review

 

Below are some important blogs from around the web that I found helpful reading over the weekend…

Guard and Guide Your Kids Online

In this post on the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s website, Candice Watters writes of the importance and necessity of monitoring and guarding your children while they participate in online activities.  She also gives some helpful and simple action steps to take which will help ensure a loving atmosphere that is less authoritarian and more caring and explanatory.  I found this paragraph and these questions from Watters to be riveting and helpful for perspective, especially in the type of culture of parenting in which parents just want to give everything they can to their children so that their children will love them and be happy:

What if your son or daughter wanted to buy a venomous snake for a pet? What if they had birthday money to pay for it? What if they wanted to let it sleep with them at night? At what point would you say no? If your son or daughter has a straight-up, unaltered wi-fi enabled iPad, iPhone, or similar device, they have the equivalent of a snake. The factory settings won’t protect them from online danger. What should parents do?

Should John 7:53-8:11 Be Moved to a Footnote?

Jim Hamilton, pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, and professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made a compelling argument as to why John 7:53-8:11 ought to not be included in our translations of the Bible.  Owen Strachan makes the suggestion that this passage ought to be included in a footnote in which it is explained that some early manuscripts added it in.

This sermon and then this blog post by Dr. Strachan is a good reminder that the work of Biblical exploration and criticism is not done, but needs to be ongoing as we can be continuing to fine-tune our translations of the Bible to ensure Biblical accuracy.

World Vision Returns to a Biblical Definition of Marriage

Denny Burk, professor at Boyce College in Louisville, KY, wrote a summary article on World Vision’s decision to reverse their decision to accept and hire people in same-sex marriages in their organization.  Dr. Burk says this about WV’s decision:

(World Vision’s statement) admits violating the authority of scripture and the Bible’s teaching on marriage. Signed by the President Richard Stearns, the letter expresses humble confession and repentance. It even asks for forgiveness from donors and other supporters. I was heartened and encouraged by what I read in the letter. I think this kind of public repentance is courageous, and I praise the Lord for it.

Is Church Membership Really Required

This is a great post about Church Membership and one that is full of wisdom as regards to how many believers and churches currently view Church Membership.  I often see where ex-church goers still claim to have Jesus, and they usually say something along these lines, “I don’t need to the church to have Jesus.”  This post is helpful for thinking these types of thoughts out.  One especially helpful paragraph was in response to the idea that Church Membership is not biblical.  The author, Ricky Jones, says this:

Every letter in the New Testament assumes Christians are members of local churches. The letters themselves are addressed to local churches. They teach us how to get along with other members, how to encourage the weak within the church, how to conduct ourselves at church, and what to do with unrepentant sinners in the church. They command us to submit to our elders, and encourage us to go to our elders to pray. All these things are impossible if you aren’t a member of a local church. (See 1 and 2 Corinthians, James, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and 1 Peter for references.)

 

Conclusion

There is much to be aware of in our culture today – both the Christian culture and in the overall culture of our age.  Reading good, clear articles is helpful and encouraging, while at the same time useful for people who may not have the time to sit down and read long books or who may even be discouraged by reading longer books.  Reading blogs online can help cultivate a desire to “take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5, also the reason for this blog-site)”.  Also, reading blogs online can help cultivate a culture of reading for individuals, which can further help create greater desires to get into longer books and discourses.  Grace and peace to you this week!

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Weekend Blog Review

blog review

 

I found blogs in the past are extremely helpful when the author periodically provides the readership with other blogs on the internet that they have read and found intriguing.  Therefore, I hope to provide a blog on Monday’s that will give a short review (one or two paragraphs) on a blog I have read and then of course the link to the blog for the readers to go read for themselves.  Each one will provide 3-4 different engaging blogs each week.

Pray for Hobby Lobby and the SCOTUS Decision

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention provides a helpful article for Christians to think and engage in this weeks decision in the Supreme Court of the United States of America regarding Hobby Lobby and their seeking the ability to conduct business with the support of freedom of religion and with Christian conscience.

We as Christians ought to be particularly interested in this case since it could have far reaching implications for the future of business and religious liberty in America.

Fred Phelps and the Ant-Gospel of Hate by Dr. R. Albert Mohler

Fred Phelps passed away last week.  He was the Pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  Westboro is most famous for its protesting funerals of US Armed Military and being most hateful towards the homosexual community.  Dr. Mohler provides some helpful thoughts on how we as Christians ought to respond to Phelps’ passing and how we ought to think about the way Westboro participates in the public square.

The New Calvinism Movement by Matt Svoboda

Matt is an old college friend and brother pastor in Tennessee.  I enjoy Matt’s blogs and find them to be helpful and clear in thinking through different issues.  In this blog, Matt gives a short reason why he is proud and excited to be involved in the new Calvinism movement in the Southern Baptist Convention and in broader Evangelicalism.

Many non-Calvinist’s (and Calvinist’s too!) misunderstand what this movement is all about, and Matt provides some clarity into the issue.  I also found the links in this blog helpful as well, such as the link to Kevin DeYoung’s post about this same topic.

Conclusion

The more we read the more information we gather.  I pray that mere information gathering would not be the goal of my reading or the goal of your reading.  Rather, I pray that as I read, as I write, and as I provide other helpful resources to read that our goal would be gospel growth in holiness and evangelism.  Our goal ought to be that the information we gather so spurs us on to love God with our minds and that would lead us to loving God with our actions.

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Born that Way? Naturalism and Homosexuality

DNA

Edward Welch’s book Blame It on the Brain?: Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience is an extremely helpful read for all.  One of the more persuasive arguments for the approval of homosexuality is the claim that a homosexual cannot help it, they are “born gay”.  The argument assumes the possibility of a gay gene in DNA.  Welch’s book provides some extremely helpful insight to this argument, and I want to add some background information that will help us think through this issue.  Therefore, in this post I will seek to accomplish two things: 1. Provide a survey of Welch’s chapter on Homosexuality and the “scientific evidence” for the gay gene, and 2. Provide a basis for Christian thought vs. Naturalistic/Evolutionist thought.

Part 1: There is proof of the gay gene, right?

Ed Welch says “homosexuality is the hot issue in the church and society…Political sanctions will be imposed on institutions that refuse to hire homosexuals…More denominations will revise their exegesis of biblical passages to allow for homosexual relationships…And people who otherwise take the Bible seriously will leave churches that call homosexuality ‘sin.’ (Page 152)”

In this chapter, Welch approaches this topic in four ways: 1. to understand the person; 2. distinguish between spiritual and physical symptoms; 3. address the heart issues; and 4. address the physical problems.  He begins by laying the foundation of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality.  Welch rightly points to the following passages:

  • Leviticus 18:22 “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
  • Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.  They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (In this context, this is Old Testament moral law, to which breaking the moral law had differing degrees of punishment.  Now, in the New Covenant with Jesus Christ as Mediator, a homosexual finds that the death requirement for punishment has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Therefore, if a homosexual repents and believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the punishment has been accepted in the person and work of Jesus Christ.)
  • Romans 1:26-27 “Because of this (idolatry), God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders will inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • Jude 7 “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.  They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

Welch also comments about Jesus’ lack of addressing and condemning homosexuality.  He says, “Jesus did not speak against homosexuality specifically, but neither did he specifically address many other sexual behaviors, such as incest, bestiality, and rape.  That doesn’t mean that they were permissible.  Jesus consistently upheld the Old Testament law.  He stood against all legalistic attempts to narrow its intent, and he maintained that the law addressed both behavior and attitude.  He consistently spoke for marriage, and he indicated that the only alternative to heterosexual marriage was celibacy (Matthew 19:12) (Pg. 155).”  Welch has much more to say in this first category dealing with the biblical perspective, but for the sake of space, suffice it to say that the Bible makes clear its position on homosexuality.

Biological Data and Homosexuality

The next section Welch deals with is the Biological causes of homosexuality.  With a Christian and Biblical worldview in mind (section 2 of this post), Welch wisely says this: “What we would expect to find in the research is this: careful scientific observations will harmonize with the biblical position.  Interpretations of that research may differ from the biblical perspective, but the observations themselves, assuming they are reliable, will not (Pg. 165).”  What is Welch saying?  If Christianity is true, then we would expect to find scientific observations which support instead of go against the claims of the Bible.  Welch goes on to say, “indeed this is the case: the findings of science support rather than challenge the biblical view (Pg. 165).”  He provides what he calls the “best known study on the biology of homosexuality”:

The lead researcher, Simon LeVay, conducted post-mortem (they were dead) examinations on the brains of nineteen homosexual men who died from AIDS and sixteen presumed heterosexual men, six of whom died of AIDS.  His results suggested that the brains of the heterosexual men consistently had more brain cells in a specific area of the brain (INAH 3) that is allegedly implicated in sexual behavior.  When viewed with a homosexuality-as-biologically-determined bias, the data show that homosexuality is located in the brain.

Christians and non-Christians have often noted that this study in no way establishes a causal link between brain activity and homosexual behavior.  Even LeVay concedes the limitations of his study, suggesting that it is little more than an invitation to further research…He recognizes that AIDS may have confounded the results, that the sample size was too small to draw any clear conclusions, and that his measurements could be prone to error.  Furthermore, the brains of three homosexual men in the study were indistinguishable from the analogous brain areas in heterosexual men…From LeVay’s perspective the possible brain differences may just as likely result from homosexuality as cause it (Pg. 166-167).

Welch concludes his point this way: “At most, biology is analogous to a friend who tempts us into sin.  Such a friend might be bothersome, but he can be rebuked and resisted (Pg. 167).”

What About Other Genetic Behaviors?

I want to provide some other instances in which it is supposed that certain behaviors seem to be genetic.  There are people who believe that there is scientific evidence (though it is similar to that of the homosexual “scientific evidence”) that points towards alcoholism being genetic.  Likewise, kleptomania (thievery) is believed to be genetic as well.  In these instances, we wouldn’t automatically excuse these behaviors on the basis of genetics.  We would encourage the alcoholic and the thief to repent of their sin, even though they may always struggle with the temptation to sin.  The urging (genetic) is not the cause or the definitive action.  You cannot make the connection, then, that because a thief is genetically urged and disposed to steal, that then he is automatically going to steal, and if he does, then we will accept him for who he is and we ought not tell him that his lifestyle is wrong and encourage him to not steal.

For further reading, I would encourage all readers to read Welch’s book Blame It on the Brain, as it clarifies the difference between genetic influence and genetic necessity.  For instance, Alzheimer’s disease is a genetic necessity, meaning that those who have Alzheimer’s will necessarily be caused to have and experience memory loss.  On the opposite side, Alcoholism is a genetic influence, meaning that those who are genetically urged or disposed to alcoholism will not necessarily be an alcoholic, rather he or she is only influenced to be an alcoholic.  The choice and course of life still remains in their hands.

Part 2: The Naturalist Worldview and Homosexuality

Besides the lack of truth behind the argument of a homosexual being born (genetic) gay, there is a deeper rooted belief (whether assumed or communicated) behind this argument.  That is the naturalist/evolutionist worldview.  In this worldview, there is no such thing as objectivity as there is no being outside of the system.  There is no God, there is no higher power, there is only what is in nature.

The engine that makes naturalism work is evolution.  Let me clarify.  I do not mean microevolution.  Microevolution is simply change within species, or adaptations, such as what was witnessed with Darwin’s Finches on the Galapagos Islands or what is evidenced with different dog breeds.  I mean “big-E” macroevolution, natural selection, change across species and new species.  The explanation of origins for this worldview is the big bang, which is lacking because there is a huge lack of ability to explain how non-matter becomes matter, and then how non-life became life.  That aside, the argument homosexuals use about genetics is based in this worldview.

If natural selection, survival of the fittest is true, then objective reason and morality (right or wrong) is non-existent.  Even reason cannot be trusted because, after all, there is no reason for reason.  Reason itself becomes a part of the mechanism of natural selection, and what we say is reasonable now may be unreasonable, if it no longer suits for our advancement, in the future.  Therefore, the only reliable thing is what is natural.  If it a homosexual is born with a gene that then necessitates them to be gay, then it is a natural thing, and therefore a right thing for them.

In response to this, I would argue two things: 1. How do we know what is natural is interpreted rightly?  and 2. There is no right and wrong for anything or anybody.

Is Nature Reliable?

No.  What is natural can only be interpreted in the backdrop of what will advance humanity.  Even in this framework, homosexual genes would assume to become extinct via process of natural selection because it will not advance our species.  But that aside, there is no way to know if we are even interpreting what is natural correctly.  As stated above, reason itself, which is where interpretation comes from, cannot be trusted as true.

Is there Morality?

No.  In this framework, morality, or what is right and what is wrong, is only determined on an individual level.  What is right for you may not be right for me, but there is no real way of knowing (remember, knowledge and reason cannot be trusted) what is right.  In this view, then all actions of all humans must necessarily become arbitrarily accepted, not as good or right, but as what is right for the individual.  There is never a time to be able to call any action either right or wrong.  Therefore, a murderer ought to not be condemned as doing something wrong when he murders.  A child molester ought to not be condemned as doing something wrong when he molests a child.

Conclusion

Both parts of this post provide helpful information and insight into the argument.  There is no sufficient (or even semi-sufficient) scientific data or research that points towards homosexuality being caused by genetics.  Likewise, this argument is even grounded in a deeper, more imbedded worldview.  This worldview allows for humans to behave in ways that suit them, but it necessarily has greater consequences that even homosexuals have decried as evil.  But, after-all, their claim of evil is a borrowed morality from a Christian Theism worldview.

I will close by pointing towards Romans 1.  This is a spiritual issue, not a physical issue.  Homosexuals (and all sinners who refuse to repent) want their way because they have denied their Creator and have settled to worship creation instead.  Romans 1:18-25 says,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather that the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

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The Pilgrim’s Progress

Pilgrims progress

I read Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan recently, and it was perhaps the best piece of literature I have ever read.  I love reading these types of books because they are engaging and the narration genre makes it like reading a great story, yet they are allegorical, which means they are meant to tell a story in which it causes reflection and affects change in you as you read it.  Pilgrim’s Progress is certainly all of that.  There are several encouraging things in Pilgrim’s Progress I wish to share with you, but this list is certainly not exhaustive.  I hope to encourage you to get a copy and read it in full for yourself.

Quick Summary

To summarize extremely quickly, Christian is the main character in part 1.  He is set on a journey by Evangelist, who tells him to go to the wicket gate (a wicket gate is a smaller, more narrow gate within a larger gate).  The wicket gate represents Christian’s conversion.  Once he goes through the gate, he is converted.  Think of Matthew 7:13 when Jesus says “enter by the narrow gate”.  Once through the gate, Christian comes in contact with several helpful people, including his friend Faithful, the Interpreter’s house (which represents the Holy Spirit), The Castle Beautiful (which represents the Church), and Hopeful, who goes with him until the end.

Along the way, Christian meets several challenges, such as the Slough of Despond, the demon ApollyonDoubting Castle and the giant Despair, the wicked town Vanity Fair, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death Christian and his friends meet with these different challenges and persecutions, but he and Hopeful eventually make it to the Celestial City, where they are met by the King of the Land, which is God Himself.

In part 2 of Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana (Christian’s wife) and her sons, along with Mercy follow in the footsteps of Christian.  They are helped tremendously along the way with Mr. Great Heart, and their journey is much easier and they walk much more confidently towards Celestial City.  With ease they are able to defeat the different enemies of the Pilgrim’s along the way that gave Christian such a hard way.

This summary in no way does it justice.  Just go get the book and read it.  Seriously.  Stop what you are doing (after you read the rest of this review, of course 😉 ), and go get this book and read it.  Next I will give 4 reasons why I love Pilgrim’s Progress.

1. I love Pilgrim’s Progress because I love how it creates a picture of the life of a Christian

We (especially Western, American Christians) often have very “on the surface” Christianity.  Pilgrim’s Progress is written as an allegory, yet it comes from Bunyan’s own personal experience and life.  In Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinner’s, Bunyan’s autobiography, he writes of similar struggles and doubts that Christian experiences in Pilgrim’s Progress.  Here’s the thing: the Puritan’s were so concerned with holiness and things of Jesus and God’s Word that it infected every single aspect of what they did on a day to day basis.  There was nothing that they did that was outside the realm of Christianity or outside the realm of mattering to God.  This is evidenced in Pilgrim’s Progress in that Christian struggles immensely on his way to the Celestial City.  My point?  The deeper we go into God, the less “on the surface” we become.

The Christian life is never meant to be easy.  In fact, we as believer’s are all but guaranteed suffering and persecution.  Christian certainly wasn’t concerned with the ease of his journey as much as he was concerned with being faithful on his journey in the midst of his trials and sufferings.  When He experienced extreme doubt and sadness in Doubting Castle, Christian remembered he had the key which opened all the doors there.  The name of the key was Promise.  Bunyan’s point here is that it is God’s promises which drive us into deeper and deeper trust in God, even and especially in the midst of suffering and trials.  This doesn’t mean that we necessarily pursue suffering, but it does mean that we have created an idol out of ease of life and comfortableness and pleasure.  Oh that we would be people who were so concerned with pleasing God that our minds and lives would be tormented in even the seemingly small things until we were walking in holiness and glorifying God through obedience and faithfulness!

2. I love Pilgrim’s Progress because of the way Christian keeps his heart fixed on the goal – the Celestial City

This reminds me so much of Hebrews 12:2, which says “fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith”.  Christian never let his circumstance grasp his heart.  Though he struggled and often needed reminders, he persevered until the end because of the greatness of the Celestial City and who was there – the King (Jesus, God).  What is it that sustains us in life?  God.  What keeps us going and ensures we will persevere until the end?  God the Holy Spirit.  There is a scene in the book where Christian comes in contact with the Interpreter’s House.  The Interpreter represents the Holy Spirit.  He takes Christian into several different rooms where different situations in life are displayed.  The Interpreter explains to Christian the meaning, and Christian is able to refer back to this time when he is encountering a difficult time.

Similarly, the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God to us, so that when we face different challenges of life, we are equipped and ready to faithfully walk through these life-stages.  This aspect of the journey is crucial for Christian.  It’s what he reminds himself of over and over – the Celestial City and what has been revealed to him about it.  What keeps us going as believer’s in Jesus?  Jesus Himself as revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Holy Scriptures.

3.  I love Pilgrim’s Progress because of Mr. Great Heart as a guide for Christiana

Mr. Great Heart represents a Pastor who is ushering Christiana, her sons, and Mercy along the way.  He is the one who reveals different truths to them, encourages them with different things, and fights off and wards off different enemies.  As a pastor, it reminds me of the severity of the calling and the necessity of the calling.

Another aspect of this point is the submission and the trust that Christiana and her companions have for Mr. Great Heart.  I have encountered such skepticism from church goers in the past (and sometimes present) towards pastors.  Some of this may be warranted, but overall, I have witness a general lack of trust and respect towards the office of the pastor.  Christiana knew that Mr. Great Heart was responsible for her journey and her soul, and she gladly followed and thought well of him.  After all, the office of the pastor in Pilgrim’s Progress is Mr. Great Heart.  This names encompasses the courage, the boldness, the tenderness, the care, and the devotion (and so much more!) that is required of being a pastor, and it encourages me to be that type of pastor in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. I love Pilgrim’s Progress because of the way it makes you think deeply while captivating your attention in the great narrative of the story

This is an aspect that is found in literature of old.  I am not against reading modern fiction, but too much of it is simply “pleasure reading” and is not true literature.  True literature is written for the purpose of making the reader think deeply while remaining engaging on the level of the story.  Pilgrim’s Progress is a theological book with out being a Systematic, Biblical, or Historical Theology book.  I love reading “theology books”, and have several and I want more.  But there’s something about reading Pilgrim’s Progress which draws me in and engages me on an even deeper level in theology than “just” a theology book.

When you encounter a great piece of literature like Pilgrim’s Progress which does what I have attempted to explain in the above paragraph, it is a jewel and a gem.  Perhaps that style is so great because it is most like the piece of work that God has communicated to us in the Bible, which is the best book of all to read.

Conclusion

My list could go on and on of why I love Pilgrim’s Progress.  I look forward to reading it to my children and having them experience the joys of this truly great book.  Maybe you don’t read much, or maybe you don’t have time to.  Maybe you love to read.  Maybe you wish you could read better.  Pilgrim’s Progress will satisfy you, no matter what your current reading habits are.  I couldn’t put it down, and if you approach it seriously, I promise that you will not be able to put it down either.

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