Weekly roundup

Fantastic video clips of John MacAurthur on Larry King.   Why can’t more Christian leaders come across like this?  He is easy to understand, consistent, humble and always points back unapologetically to the Bible as our authority.

More people have been killed, slaughtered, raped, tortured and maimed in the name of God than for any other reason.  Or have they? 

Pro-choicers want abortions to be “safe and legal?”  How about just legal?  Planned Parenthood in Missouri may sue regarding some “onerous” safety requirements.  How ironic – PP says the law will “drastically limit Missouri women’s access to safe and legal abortions,” when the whole point of the law is to increase safety!  You’d think they would fully support the law.  Read the article and see how many of those items are unreasonable.

More on PP here: Wake me up from the Planned Parenthood nightmare

You’ve probably noticed the little pictures of people next to their comments.  WordPress added this feature recently.  I sort of like it, except when I’m catching up and responding to multiple threads.  I really don’t need to see my picture 5 times, and I doubt you do either.  So I’ll apologize in advance and in perpetuity right now.

Thoughtful piece on Environmentalism and Christianity

Pastor James MacDonald on money (from a study of Proverbs): Money – gain it honestly, esteem it accurately and share it generously or it will destroy you and your family.

When it comes to Rick Warren I’m neither a fan nor a caustic critic.  But he does have a bad habit of taking verses out of context.  In a column on laughter he quoted Psalm 2 but completely misunderstood the point.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 2:4, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs.” Isn’t that a great verse? God has a sense of humor. God laughs!

But Psalm 2 isn’t about God laughing at jokes.  He is laughing with derision at those who mock him and ignore his Son.

Great summary on Iraq by Victor Davis Hanson (Hat tip: Queen of Swords)

Lying for Islam – They aren’t supposed to lie, unless they think it will serve their interests.  Check.

Psalm 23

Greetings! 

It is hard to know where to start to do a short commentary on Psalm 23.  I have heard sermons series that had one lesson for every verse.  Whole books have been written on it.  It is one of the most recognized passages in the Bible.  It is a great Psalm to memorize (then you can say you memorized a whole chapter of the Bible!)

To slow down and get a lot out of this Psalm try reading a verse repeatedly and emphasizing a different word each time.  For example:

  • The Lord is my shepherd – Not just any Lord, but the Lord – the one true God.

  • The Lord is my shepherd – God is your shepherd – not someone else.

  • The Lord is my shepherd – He is your shepherd right now and forever (Or is he?  If he isn’t, make him the shepherd today).

  • The Lord is my shepherd – not just some generic shepherd, but your shepherd.

  • The Lord is my shepherd – He leads you and guides you.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

My favorite verse is probably, “He restores my soul.”  I always slow down at that part.  He redeemed it for eternity and He restores it whenever I stop and focus on him.  Praise God for that!

This Psalm is full of promises from beginning to end.

What stands out to you about this Psalm?

Problems with pro-gay theology – 4 of 5 – adding to the Bible

1.jpgPart 1    Part 2    Part 3     Part 5 

Pro-gay theology tends to fall into one of three categories.  They are all wrong, but for varying reasons.  Sometimes they overlap categories.  Today we cover the final line of thinking.  Then I’ll have a summary post.

  1. The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t.  This view claims that we can ignore the probitions against homosexual behavior because they were written by homophobic Jews.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong.  This view holds that people just aren’t reading the Bible properly, and that God’s Word is actually affirming of gay relationships.
  3. The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically condemn gay behavior as sinful.  However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable.  This view holds that God has changed his mind on this moral issue and not only is it now acceptable, but it is sinful if you don’t affirm this behavior and same-sex relationships.  

The third view attempts to affirm scripture but makes a major theological mistake afterwards.  Think about the premise: God is allegedly overturning a moral law and simultaneously making it immoral to quote the Bible. 

One denomination has a slogan that “God is still speaking.”  This would be true provided that it meant that God still speaks through his Word.  However, liberal theologians tend to use this phrase to mean that God is changing his moral laws.

Some people appear to believe in Dalmatian Theology, the false notion that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots.  That is the first error above.  However, those in this third category appear to hold to Advanced Dalmatian Theology, where God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives.  

This category overlaps a bit with those who don’t think He communicated his laws in a discernable way in the first place (i.e., in the Bible), but they now think He is communicating with Swiss-watch precision to them. 

Here’s an example: A Methodist pastor named Laurie Hays Coffman did a pro-gay theology piece that made the argument that she wants to “unfurl our corporate sails to catch today’s winds as the Spirit blows afresh.”  She said she was challenged by the vision God gave to Peter in Acts 10-11 where God makes it clear that the Gospel is for the Gentiles, too, and that the Israelites’ ceremonial dietary laws are no longer in force. 

Her reasoning is that in the same way that God overturned those laws that He is now overturning the prohibitions against homosexual behavior. 

The problem is her poor Biblical analysis.  There are at least nine things wrong with this view:

  1. The person with the revelation was Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle and a key leader in the early church.  It wasn’t made to you, me or someone like Ms. Coffman.  That doesn’t mean God couldn’t reveal something important like this to us, just that it is highly unlikely.
  2. The visions were clear and emphatic.  Peter was given the vision three times. 
  3. Peter was inclined to reject the meaning of the vision, whereas these pro-gay theologians have views on human sexuality that are virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture and they are glad to accept this “new revelation.”
  4. There was external validation for Peter from the Roman centurion.
  5. This lesson showed up in the Bible, not outside it.  I’m not saying miracles don’t happen outside the Bible.  It is just that things appear in the Bible for a reason.  God communicating that the ceremonial laws had been fulfilled was one of those “big deals.”
  6. This vision overturned a ceremonial law, not a moral law.  There are zero examples in the Bible of God reversing his moral laws.  In fact, the more Jesus talked the stricter the laws seemed to get, because He emphasized the spirit of the law and not just the letter (i.e., lust was akin to committing adultery, anger was akin to murder, etc.).  The dietary laws never applied to Gentiles. 
  7. The “God has changed his mind view” is primarily being “revealed” to theologically liberal Christians in the U.S. . . . the very ones who often deny his Word to begin with!  So we can’t trust the accurate transmission of the original writings but we can trust their new revelations?  Go figure. 
  8. If God is revealing a change, why is it necessarily more liberal?  Why couldn’t God make his laws more stringent? 
  9. The Bible gives strong warnings not to add or take away from its teachings.

And here’s a repeat from yesterday: Even some pro-gay theologians agree that the Bible has straightforward commands, but they appeal to “experience” over Scripture.  Luke Timothy Johnson said:

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good.

There are simply no good reasons to believe that God is changing his moral laws (dropping those against homosexual behavior and adding those saying not to preach against it) and only informing selected people (as opposed to the Apostles and their direct followers) through revelation or “experience.” 

Again, consider that:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

Let me point you again to the introduction to ensure you understand my perspective.  I think we should treat homosexuals with the same love and respect we’d extend to anyone else.  But we should not edit the Bible to match our culture and we should not condone false teachers.  God’s way is the best way.  I don’t mean that as a sound bite.  It really is the best way to live life – now and for eternity.

Comments are welcome, but please stick to the topic.  We aren’t debating secular views, we aren’t demonizing anyone (pro-gay or orthodox) and we don’t need straw-man arguments (“You just don’t love them,” etc.).

Remember, if homosexual behavior is a sin – and I believe the Bible clearly identifies it as such – then affirming and encouraging that behavior is also a sin and providing the orthodox Biblical view is the loving thing to do.

Problems with pro-gay theology – 3 of 5 – misinterpreting the Bible

18.jpgPart 1    Part 2    Part 4    Part 5  

Pro-gay theology tends to fall into one of three categories.  They are all wrong, but for varying reasons.  Sometimes they overlap categories.  Today were covering the second type.

  1. The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t.  This view claims that we can ignore the prohibitions against homosexual behavior because they were obviously written by homophobic Jews.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong.  This view holds that people just aren’t reading the Bible properly, and that God’s Word is actually affirming of gay relationships.
  3. The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically condemn gay behavior as sinful.  However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable.  This view holds that God has changed his mind on this moral issue and not only is it now acceptable, but it is sinful if you don’t affirm this behavior and same-sex relationships. 

The second view is generally better than the first (“the Bible is not the Word of God”) with respect to being able to guide people towards the truth, because you have a common authority to appeal to. 

The problem with this view is that it is just plain incorrect.  As hard as pro-gay theologians try, the truth is that the Bible is overwhelmingly clear.  Pro-gay theologians are good at casting doubt about certain passages but they never seem to pay attention when someone points out how their reasoning is flawed.

Even some pro-gay theologians agree that the Bible has straightforward commands, but they appeal to “experience” over Scripture.  The heretic John Shelby Spong denies the authority of the Bible at every turn, he at least admits that:

“The Bible can certainly be read as condemnatory of homosexual practice. Both sides admit that.”

Luke Timothy Johnson, a more orthodox theologian said:

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good.

As noted previously, here is a summary of the Biblical view: 

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

I find those figures to be unambiguous and very compelling based on plain readings of the text and even more so when delving further into the context and the original languages.  I think it is important to consider all those points because some people try to dismiss the traditional Biblical view because it “only” has a few passages about homosexuality.  It only takes one clear passage to make a point, but there are many more than that in the Bible.  These folks also don’t seem to mind making broad conclusions on verses that really do just have one verse behind them.

I have written on a couple specific mistakes pro-gay theologians make regarding Leviticus 1 (“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”), another article on the shellfish argument and Romans 1

There are many other resources dealing with particular verses.  Here’s a terrific outline on Romans 1 that explodes the myth that the real sin is acting outside your desires (as if anyone does that!). 

My favorite resource is Responding to Pro-Gay Theology by Joe Dallas.  I highly encourage everyone to read it.  It is very thorough but readable.  I don’t have time to cover all the passages here but if people have questions on specific verses we can cover them in the comments section.  

There are solid answers for any question you can come up with, provided people want to really discuss the issue.  I saw this commentary on an ex-ex-gay blog (i.e., someone who tried to leave the homosexual lifestyle and returned).  She is commenting on Mel White, a leading pro-gay theologian.

Mel White is a passionate and articulate man who makes it clear from the beginning of the workshop that he has absolutely no desire whatsoever to discuss the biblical passages on homosexuality. Over the years he has suffered a barrage of debates on the issue and he is thoroughly burnt out. He refuses to engage in the discussion any longer. Instead, he passes out a booklet he has written on the subject and tells us to read it. Then, he encourages us to refrain from discussing the Bible with conservative Christians because fundamentalists have no interest in sincere dialogue. Mel also encourages us not to engage in the debate for another reason. By having the conversation, we expose ourselves over and over again to the “lie” that homosexuality is wrong, and when heard repeatedly, “deep down inside you will wonder if they are right.”

That is a clever dodge on Mel’s part.  But I’ll be glad to have a sincere dialogue even if he won’t. 

If you examine all the facts, I think you’ll find that the case is overwhelming: God considers homosexual behavior to be sinful and his ideal for marriage is one man and one woman.

So why do people twist the scriptures so blatantly? I generally don’t speculate on the motives of individuals, as only God knows their hearts. But I have seen some themes and evidence in various cases.

Some believe the lies out of ignorance or laziness. They may be sincere Christians who just haven’t fully examined the issue. There are issues I haven’t fully explored and may have the wrong views on, so we should approach things with humility.  We should do the hard work to understand important issues.

Some believe them out of political correctness. It is much easier to go with the views of the culture. They should remember 1 John 2:15-16: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world.

I won’t name specifics here, but I am aware of those in the pro-gay theology camp that pretend to be otherwise-orthodox Christians.  But if you follow their own blogs, for example, you discover how thoroughly fraudulent they are.  You need to watch out for those who use a veneer of Christianity to justify their preferences.  They desparately want everyone’s approval – even though it will still leave them unfulfilled – and they especially want the church’s approval (or at least its silence).

There is also the passive-aggressive stance where some confidently claim that the Bible does or doesn’t say something about homosexual behavior, then when you go to analyze the verses they “humbly” say they don’t know that much (as if the subject were just too complicated or it is so gray we just can’t reach a conclusion).

False teachers aren’t necessarily gay themselves.  They may have other motives for spreading their lies.  Jesus warned that there would be false teachers in the church and Paul did as well.  What better way to accomplish this than to infiltrate the church and bring it down from the inside?

2 Corinthians 11:13-15  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Of course, there are frauds at the other end of the spectrum as well, such as Ted Haggard, or hateful false teachers like Fred Phelps.  Those aren’t Biblical models, either.

Some people have a “revelation” about the lack of sinfulness of homosexuality when a loved one is involved. Perhaps this is due to new information and a fresh look at the Bible, but perhaps it is due to major league rationalization. It is similar to pro-life Christians who change their minds when their child is pregnant and encourage the murder of their grandchildren. Did they really change their views on the morality of abortion based on new information, or did their fear of embarrassment and/or inconvenience trump their moral views?

Some people just want to believe the lies. It is a strong delusion. And Satan’s oldest trick is still used today: “Did God really say . . .?”  Hint: Yes.  Yes, He did.

Comments are welcome, but please stick to the topic.  We aren’t debating secular views, we aren’t demonizing anyone (pro-gay or orthodox) and we don’t need straw-man arguments (“You just don’t love them,” etc.).

Remember, if homosexual behavior is a sin – and I believe the Bible clearly identifies it as such – then affirming and encouraging that behavior is also a sin and providing the orthodox Biblical view is the loving thing to do.

Psalm 22

Greetings!

This is considered a Messianic Psalm – one that predicts Jesus, the coming Messiah.  David wrote it, but it doesn’t appear to match a specific event in his life. 

Here are some reasons the church considers it to be about Jesus:

  1. It is about being executed, not just suffering from illness or injury.
  2. Jesus quoted the first verse of this Psalm in Matthew 27 (v. 46) and in Mark.  I have heard that quoting the first verse as Jesus could have been a shortcut to referring to the whole Psalm.
  3. The victim is completely innocent.  There is no mention of sin.
  4. There are no calls for God to punish the enemies.
  5. People mocked him and told him to save himself (v. 7-8)
    • Matthew 27:39-40 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads  and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
  6. Jesus bones were not broken (v. 17) as was often done to hasten death in crucifixions.

  7. The guards gambled for Jesus’ clothes (v. 18)

    • Matthew 27:35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Psalm 22

A psalm of David.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.

4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.

5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

8 “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him,

since he delights in him.”

9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you

even at my mother’s breast.

10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.

17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.

18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

19 But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.

21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Problems with pro-gay theology – 2 of 5 – dismissing the Bible

7.jpgPart 1    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5 

Pro-gay theology tends to fall into one of three categories.  They are all wrong, but for varying reasons.  Sometimes they overlap categories.  I’ll cover the first type today.

  1. The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t.  This view claims that we can ignore the prohibitions against homosexual behavior because they were written by homophobic Jews.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong.  This view holds that people just aren’t reading the Bible properly, and that God’s Word is actually affirming of gay relationships.
  3. The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically condemn gay behavior as sinful.  However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable.  This view holds that God has changed his mind on this moral issue and not only is it now acceptable, but it is sinful if you don’t affirm this behavior and same-sex relationships.  

Regarding the first view, many liberal theologians deny that part or all of the Bible is the Word of God.  Unlike those in the second view, these folks seem to understand that the Bible does describe homosexual behavior as being sinful.  They just dismiss those parts.

Some appear to believe in Dalmatian Theology, the false notion that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots.  If God wasn’t capable of inspiring all of the original writings of the Bible to be error-free, then why should we trust him to communicate with such clarity to these people regarding what is inspired and what isn’t? 

The problem is that this view is very hard to reconcile with the 2,000 year tradition of the church and of the clear text of the Bible itself.  People are certainly entitled to hold that view, but it doesn’t seem logical for them to refer to themselves as Christians.

The Bible claims to speak directly for God roughly 3,000 times, so if someone believes that all of those are mistakes then why on earth would he take this faith seriously?  Why would he want to be a leader in the Christian church? 

Note that many of these church “leaders” are liars: They either lied at their ordination vows about believing the essentials of the faith, or they changed their minds later and didn’t do the honest thing and resign.  Their views are usually not just a little different than historic Christianity, they are the opposite.  I believe in religious freedom, so they are entitled to their beliefs.  I also believe in honesty: HP salesman shouldn’t sell Dell products, and Christians shouldn’t promote non-Christian beliefs about the Bible. 

It is challenging to argue with those who hold the first view, because you tend to go in circles.  They claim to be Christian, which should mean we can refer to the Bible as a “final court of arbitration” of sorts.  But whenever you find a passage they don’t like they’ll claim it was written just by men, not God, or they’ll pull out the false argument that you are being a Biblical literalist.   

They may say things like, “But Jesus never said anything about homosexual behavior.”  That is called arguing from silence and it is poor reasoning.  Jesus generally taught principles, not an exhaustive set of do’s and don’ts.  He reiterated that God created man and woman and that they should become one flesh.  He didn’t even hint at other possibilities.  He authored the Old Testament moral laws and didn’t attempt to reiterate them all.  He primarily focused on those that the Pharisees were abusing at the time.  There are other serious sins He never mentioned, but they are still sins.  This view is also part of the 2nd type of theological error noted above.

They may jump through hoops trying to dismiss the plain reading of verses like Leviticus 18:22 (“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable”) yet gladly take other plain passages literally.  They may claim there were “only a few verses” but are quick to make all sorts of firm statements on other topics with less verses.  And just how many times does God have to clearly say something before we believe it? 

They may try to dismiss passages like that by misreading other passages, such as saying that “God said that eating shellfish was an abomination, so why aren’t you opposed to that?”

To have a rational discussion on the verses referencing homosexuality you have to convince people in this group that the Bible is reliable and authoritative first.  And that may be impossible. 

Here’s a sample quote from a person in this camp:

A 21st century [Martin] Luther would surely recognize that the few biblical proscriptions against “sodomy”-shaky in themselves as condemnations of same-sex love and rooted in a worldview vastly different from our own-should not bar the loving union of two gay or lesbian persons. Equally, a 21st century Luther would affirm the ordination of such persons, as in line with his theology of the ‘priesthood of all believers.’

Mary Zeiss Stange, professor of women’s studies and religion at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, responding to the recent decsion by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to expel a minister who admitted to a physical homosexual relationship-a violation of the denominations “Visions and Expectations” statement.

She really tips her hand with the “worldview vastly different from our own” comment.  The worldview she is referring to is that of Middle East Jews and Christians a couple thousand years ago or more.  But she misses the obvious: The Biblical commands weren’t always the Jews’ worldview – they rebelled against that view over and over!  The worldview is God’s, and Ms. Stange is absolutely right that it is vastly different from hers.  She apparently doesn’t believe the Bible is the Word of God.  And if she ends up in Heaven I think Martin Luther will have a few things to clarify with her.

The verses aren’t “shaky,” and there are plenty showing God’s plan for human sexuality and his disapproval of homosexual behavior.  Some (but not all) people in this category may be predisposed to only consider verses that affirm their views, and they typically don’t have a problem drawing all sorts of conclusions from less clear passages.  Therefore, they won’t like these facts:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

More on those in part 3.

Comments are welcome, but please stick to the topic.  We aren’t debating secular views, we aren’t demonizing anyone (pro-gay or orthodox) and we don’t need straw-man arguments (“You just don’t love them,” etc.).

Remember, if homosexual behavior is a sin – and I believe the Bible clearly identifies it as such – then affirming and encouraging that behavior is also a sin and providing the orthodox Biblical view is the loving thing to do.

Problems with pro-gay theology – 1 of 5 – introduction

circle-slash.jpg

Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5 

Many churches today are being torn apart by false teachings about human sexuality, so we can’t ignore this topic.  In addition, the rapid radical changes in public schools are a serious issue and hate speech laws are a blatant attempt to shut down debate. 

Many people who hold the orthodox Christian view would love to move on to other issues, but the problem is that the pro-gay theologians aren’t giving up.  Therefore, we need to stand firm and do a better job of educating those in the middle ground.

While this issue isn’t an essential of the faith, such as Jesus’ divinity and exclusivity for salvation, those who take the pro-gay theology view typically have to deny the essential of the authority of scripture to arrive at their conclusions.  And that is a dangerous thing.

The general Biblical ignorance of many Christians on this topic isn’t helping things.  I know of people who have gone to church their whole lives and have been in multiple Bible studies but still ask questions like, “Does the New Testament say anything about homosexual behavior?”  (Short answer: Yes.)  And it goes downhill from there. 

Before I dive in, let me state that while I firmly believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, I do not think it is something we should grandstand on.  We all have temptations and stumble and fall at times.  Romans 1 explains in no uncertain terms that homosexual behavior is an affront to God, but it also lists greed, gossip, deceit and other things as serious sins (anyone squirming yet?). 

Do homosexuals have a legitimate complaint when they point out how many Christians are softer on divorce, adultery and pre-marital sex than they are on homosexual behavior?  Yes.  Grandstanding on sins that aren’t a temptation for us and downplaying or ignoring sins that are a temptation is not a Christian thing to do.  But the lesson is to hold consistent Biblical views on all sins, not to water things down more.  We need to raise the bar back up on all these sins because they have huge consequences and, more importantly, because that is in line with what the Bible says. 

With all due respect to a fellow blogger with this name, I consider myself the Voice of Reason on this issue.  Hey, I was even accused on my Bible Study Blog of dispensing pro-gay theology! I wasn’t, of course, but it shows just how fair and balanced I was being that I could be misunderstood that way (heh). 

But we shouldn’t call evil good and good evil.  I support the Methodist position on homosexuality, which regards the behavior as sinful but the people as having worth.  I think it should be illegal to abort babies just because they might be homosexual (Ironically, that position puts me at odds with many liberals whose support for abortion is such that they think it should be legal under any circumstances).  I mention these things simply to pre-empt any nonsensical allegations that I am homophobic, a childish and false putdown designed to stifle debate. 

I also believe that homosexual behavior is a forgivable sin and can be overcome by the power of the Gospel.  When I meet gays I don’t view it as my job to change them.  I treat them like I would anyone else, developing relationships and hoping to be able to share the Gospel with them at some point.  The real work is the job of the Holy Spirit. 

I was sharing the Gospel with a young man once who happened to be gay.  He was all over the place with his religious beliefs and questions.  At one point he asked, “Doesn’t the Bible say homosexual behavior is a sin?”  I could have glossed over it and said it was a debatable matter, but that wouldn’t have been true or loving.

I also could have spent an hour explaining all the verses around this topic, but that would have been overkill.  Instead I just confirmed that yes, the Bible does say it is a sin – despite how some try to twist it.  Then I just shifted back to the basic Gospel – namely, that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Savior.  It was a great back-and-forth conversation on a lot of topics and I pray that it planted a seed and that the young man kept searching.

Pro-gay theology tends to fall into one of three categories.  They are all wrong, but for varying reasons.  Sometimes they overlap categories.  I’ll cover each one over the next few days.

  1. The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t.  This view claims that we can ignore the prohibitions against homosexual behavior because they were written by homophobic Jews.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong.  This view holds that people just aren’t reading the Bible properly, and that God’s Word is actually affirming of gay relationships.
  3. The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically condemn gay behavior as sinful.  However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable.  This view holds that God has changed his mind on this moral issue and not only is it now acceptable, but it is sinful if you don’t affirm this behavior and same-sex relationships. 

Come back tomorrow for an analysis of the first type.

Comments are welcome, but please stick to the topic.  We aren’t debating secular views, we aren’t demonizing anyone (pro-gay or orthodox) and we don’t need straw-man arguments (“You just don’t love them,” etc.).

Remember, if homosexual behavior is a sin – and I believe the Bible clearly identifies it as such – then affirming and encouraging that behavior is also a sin and providing the orthodox Biblical view is the loving thing to do.

2 Samuel 23-24

Greetings!

The last words of David have some interesting points about faith and politics.  God said that ruling with righteousness and in the fear of God brings light and blessings to people.

The Last Words of David

23     These are the last words of David:

“The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel’s singer of songs:

2 “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.

3 The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God,

4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.’

5 “Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?

6 But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand.

7 Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie.”

David’s Mighty Men

8 These are the names of David’s mighty men:

Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

9 Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the men of Israel retreated, 10 but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

11 Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. 12 But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.

13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief men came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, O Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

That was a mysterious section.  I don’t have my study Bible in front of me and can’t recall why David would ask for the water, let his men risk their lives and then pour it out!

Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.

18 Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three. He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three. 19 Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.

20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab’s best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. 21 And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty men. 23 He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

24 Among the Thirty were: Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem, 25 Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite, 26 Helez the Paltite, Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa, 27 Abiezer from Anathoth, Mebunnai the Hushathite, 28 Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite, 29 Heled son of Baanah the Netophathite, Ithai son of Ribai from Gibeah in Benjamin, 30 Benaiah the Pirathonite,

Hiddai from the ravines of Gaash, 31 Abi-Albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite, 32 Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen,

Jonathan 33 son of Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam son of Sharar the Hararite, 34 Eliphelet son of Ahasbai the Maacathite, Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, 35 Hezro the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite, 36 Igal son of Nathan from Zobah, the son of Hagri, 37 Zelek the Ammonite,

Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah, 38 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite 39 and Uriah the Hittite.

There were thirty-seven in all.

David Counts the Fighting Men

24     Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”

All the details of David’s motives for calling the cencus aren’t listed, but it was obvious from the aftermath that it was a very prideful and serious sin. 

2 So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”

3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”

4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.

5 After crossing the Jordan, they camped near Aroer, south of the town in the gorge, and then went through Gad and on to Jazer. 6 They went to Gilead and the region of Tahtim Hodshi, and on to Dan Jaan and around toward Sidon. 7 Then they went toward the fortress of Tyre and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went on to Beersheba in the Negev of Judah.

8 After they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.

9 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.

10 David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”

11 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the Lord had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: 12 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”

13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come upon you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”

14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”

David chose wisely, trusting that the mercy of God would be greater than the mercy of men.

15 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. 16 When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family.”

David Builds an Altar

18 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.

21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”

“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”

22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

I love verse 24.  It is a challenge to give our best to God and the work of his kingdom.  It is easy to give out of my excess, but more rewarding when I sacrifice my time and money.

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Exploring Christianity – Part 9 – Open mindedness

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Here’s the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity.

Nicholas asked, “Christianity, like so many religions, insists that it encompasses the ultimate truth. Therefore, to be Christian is to believe that to disagree with this ‘truth’ is to be wrong. This in mind, is it possible to be Christian and open-minded at the same time?”

Yes.

And in a very real sense, people of faith (not just Christians) are clearly more open minded than atheists in at least one way: We submit that things can have material (physical) or spiritual causes.  The atheist only considers material causes for everything in the universe, including concepts such as trust, love, justice, etc.  That doesn’t make us right, but it does show that we take all possibilities into consideration.

Everyone makes truth claims – atheists and agnostics included – and that doesn’t impact their ability to be open-minded.  You can be a Christian and be open or closed-minded and you can be an atheist and be open or closed-minded.

Christians have wrestled with all the tough questions for 2,000 years.  (Why do the wicked prosper?  Why do bad things happen to good people? etc.)  And most of these were already addressed in the Bible – check out Job, Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, etc.  The stereotype of blind faith is simply inaccurate.  On a large scale, the Reformation would never have happened if Luther et al weren’t thinking critically. 

I think it was Augustine who said, “All truth is God’s truth.”  We believe that the Bible contains God’s truth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other truths outside the Bible.  The Apostle Paul, for example, was obviously very well read.  John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, said, “Religion without reason is no religion at all.”

Clear thinking is a Christian virtue.  Here are just a couple examples.  (BTW, this was probably just a coincidence, but my Bible software usually defaults to the last verse I referred to, which happened to have been in Romans.  But when I alt-tabbed over to it the first verse I wanted was already there.  Odds?  1 out of 41,173.)

Please read the first one especially closely and keep in mind that Paul was arguably the greatest evangelist of all time.  Yet the Bereans are lauded for being skeptical and not believing until they compared what Paul said with what was in the Old Testament.  This is certainly not a “blind faith.” 

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Open-mindedness is a virtue – to a point.  As Ben Witherington III (Christian scholar) is fond of saying, his Grandma told him not to be so open-minded that his brains fell out. 

Intellectual honesty requires seeking the truth regardless of where it leads.  But when you find it, it’s closing time (at least for that topic, or until someone offers up new evidence). 

Are we always as open-minded as we should be?  Perhaps not.  But don’t underestimate how much thought countless people have put into their faith.  Christians around the world put their livelihoods and their lives on the line every day for their faith.  I’m pretty sure they have put a lot of thought into it. 

It might help to consider some examples.  I have researched the essentials of the faith exhaustively: Jesus is God, He is the only way to salvation, the Trinity, etc. and it would take a tremendous amount of new counterevidence and persuasion to move my positions on those topics.

However, there are countless topics of faith such as the age of the earth (Old?  Young?), method of Baptism (Sprinkling?  Immersion?), etc. that I keep an open mind on.  I also keep an open mind on secular issues – i.e., what is the best way to accomplish the best for society?  If you or others have specific topics where they question others’ open-mindedness, please mention them in the comments section.

Again, is our approach to truth and our worldview really much different than with non-religious people?  Many atheists/agnostics I know seem rather entrenched in their positions.   Is it possible for them to think they possess the “truth” (that there is no God or that He didn’t clearly reveal himself to us) yet still keep open minds? 

Remember, the secular world agrees with much of the evidence that we are grounding our faith upon.  Even skeptics and critics of the Bible concede that Jesus died on a Roman cross, that his body was not located, that many people claimed to have witnessed his post-resurrection appearances and that even more had radically transformed lives and died rather than deny that He was God.  Based on those facts and others I came to the conclusion that the most logical explanation is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that He is God.  Others may draw different conclusions, but that alone doesn’t make either of us close minded.

Previous installments

Weekly roundup

Babies not as innocent as they pretend – Aha!  I knew it!  Evil, evil babies!  Seriously, this gives new meaning to Psalm 51:5 and others:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Nancy Pelosi vs. Cindy Sheehan = major bout of schadenfreude for Conservatives

The Conservatism with Heart blog points out the silliness of the Democrats skipping debates on Fox but pandering with the first “Gay Presidential debates,” especially considering what the reaction would be if Republicans skipped the CNN debates but participated in a “Christian” debate. 

That may come back to haunt the Democrats with the middle ground.  Keep in mind that states voting on traditional marriage amendments typically pass them with 70+% majorities and even Massachussetts was afraid to let the people vote on the matter. 

Interestingly, the 2nd link mentions Brian Graden, President of MTV Entertainment.  We’ve lost touch, but we were good friends back in our public accounting days at Arthur Young (now Ernst & Young).  He is a spectacularly talented and funny person, but I wish he had used his gifts differently.

U.K. Muslim leaders show their true colors.  And some people think Christians are the threat in the U.S.? 

John Stossel on Freedom and Benevolence Go Together – his comments on interviewing Michael Moore.  He mentioned that Moore claimed that big government would work if only the right people were in charge.  That’s the naivete’ of liberalism at work.  Stossel does a nice job of pointing out how forcing contributions at the point of a gun isn’t charity at all.

Sobering paraphrase of the week: On an Apologetics.com Podcast a guy quoted C.S. Lewis referring to “the theologian who loves what he has to say about God more than he loves God himself.”

2 Samuel 21-22

Greetings!

2 Samuel 21-22 (NIV)

The Gibeonites Avenged

21     During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”

2 The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) 3 David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?”

4 The Gibeonites answered him, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” David asked.

5 They answered the king, “As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, 6 let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and exposed before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul—the Lord’s chosen one.”

So the king said, “I will give them to you.”

7 The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the Lord between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8 But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 9 He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed and exposed them on a hill before the Lord. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning.

10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had taken them secretly from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.

14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.

I’m going to just copy and paste a commentary from my Bible software on this unusual passage:

At some point in David’s reign, probably toward the end, Israel was afflicted by a three-year drought. When he inquired of the Lord as to its cause, the Lord revealed that it came as punishment for Saul’s violation of the covenant made with the Gibeonites back in the days of Joshua (Josh. 9:15-21). At that time Israel, under Joshua’s leadership, had just destroyed Jericho and Ai and was about to attack the Amorite federation of the Canaanite hill country. The people of Gibeon, who were in the direct line of Joshua’s conquest, pretended to be faraway aliens and so escaped annihilation. Moreover, they tricked Joshua into making a covenant with them whereby they would forever serve Israel in menial tasks but could never be harmed. Though the covenant was made deceitfully, its binding nature was recognized by both the Israelites and the Gibeonites.

Saul, in an action not recorded in the biblical account, had slain some Gibeonites during his tenure (2 Sam. 21:1). When David learned that the famine had come on Israel as punishment for that covenant violation, he asked the Gibeonite leaders what he should do for them. They responded by denying any interest in silver or gold. Nor, they said, could they, as Israel’s vassals, take vengeance into their own hands. Instead they asked that seven . . . male descendants of Saul be given over to them so that they could practice the age-old tradition of lex talionis-eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life (Ex. 21:23-25).

David recognized the propriety of their demand, but he also had to balance against it the pledge he had made to Jonathan that he would forever preserve his seed (1 Sam. 20:15-16)
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Wars Against the Philistines

15 Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. 16 And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. 17 But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.”

18 In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha.

19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliathc the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.

20 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 21 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him.

22 These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.

David’s Song of Praise

Chapter 22 is very similar to Psalm 18, written as a thanksgiving hymn for victory.  It is full of promises about God. 

22     David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; 3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent men you save me.

4 I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.

5 “The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

6 The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.

7 In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.

8 “The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry.

9 Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.

10 He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.

11 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.

12 He made darkness his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky.

13 Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth.

14 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.

15 He shot arrows and scattered the enemies, bolts of lightning and routed them.

16 The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the Lord, at the blast of breath from his nostrils.

17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.

18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.

20 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

21 “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.

22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God.

23 All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees.

24 I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.

25 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.

26 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,

27 to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

28 You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.

29 You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

30 With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

31 “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

Yes, God is perfect – more perfect than we can imagine.  And his Word is flawless! 

32 For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?

That is a rhetorical question.  While many people are quick to say there are other paths to God, that is not what the Bible says at all.  God demands our devotion to him alone. 

33 It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.

34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.

35 He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

36 You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great.

37 You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.

38 “I pursued my enemies and crushed them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed.

39 I crushed them completely, and they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet.

40 You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet.

41 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes.

42 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them— to the Lord, but he did not answer.

43 I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth; I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.

44 “You have delivered me from the attacks of my people; you have preserved me as the head of nations. People I did not know are subject to me,

45 and foreigners come cringing to me; as soon as they hear me, they obey me.

46 They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds.

47 “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!

48 He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me,

49 who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me.

50 Therefore I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing praises to your name.

51 He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.”

How many times do I forget to give God credit for what He has done for me?

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Exploring Christianity – Part 9 – Open-mindedness – updated

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Here’s the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity.

Nicholas asked, “Christianity, like so many religions, insists that it encompasses the ultimate truth. Therefore, to be Christian is to believe that to disagree with this ‘truth’ is to be wrong. This in mind, is it possible to be Christian and open-minded at the same time?”

Yes.

And in a very real sense, people of faith (not just Christians) are clearly more open minded than atheists in at least one way: We submit that things can have material (physical) or spiritual causes.  The atheist only considers material causes for everything in the universe, including concepts such as trust, love, justice, etc.  That doesn’t make us right, but it does show that we take all possibilities into consideration.

Everyone makes truth claims – atheists and agnostics included – and that doesn’t impact their ability to be open-minded.  You can be a Christian and be open or closed-minded and you can be an atheist and be open or closed-minded.

Christians have wrestled with all the tough questions for 2,000 years.  (Why do the wicked prosper?  Why do bad things happen to good people? etc.)  And most of these were already addressed in the Bible – check out Job, Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, etc.  The stereotype of blind faith is simply inaccurate.  On a large scale, the Reformation would never have happened if Luther et al weren’t thinking critically. 

I think it was Augustine who said, “All truth is God’s truth.”  We believe that the Bible contains God’s truth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other truths outside the Bible.  The Apostle Paul, for example, was obviously very well read.  John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, said, “Religion without reason is no religion at all.”

Clear thinking is a Christian virtue.  Here are just a couple examples.  (BTW, this was probably just a coincidence, but my Bible software usually defaults to the last verse I referred to, which happened to have been in Romans.  But when I alt-tabbed over to it the first verse I wanted was already there.  Odds?  1 out of 31,173.)

Please read the first one especially closely and keep in mind that Paul was arguably the greatest evangelist of all time.  Yet the Bereans are lauded for being skeptical and not believing until they compared what Paul said with what was in the Old Testament.  This is certainly not a “blind faith.” 

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Open-mindedness is a virtue – to a point.  As Ben Witherington III (Christian scholar) is fond of saying, his Grandma told him not to be so open-minded that his brains fell out. 

Intellectual honesty requires seeking the truth regardless of where it leads.  But when you find it, it’s closing time (at least for that topic, or until someone offers up new evidence). 

Are we always as open-minded as we should be?  Perhaps not.  But don’t underestimate how much thought countless people have put into their faith.  Christians around the world put their livelihoods and their lives on the line every day for their faith.  I’m pretty sure they have put a lot of thought into it. 

It might help to consider some examples.  I have researched the essentials of the faith exhaustively: Jesus is God, He is the only way to salvation, the Trinity, etc. and it would take a tremendous amount of new counterevidence and persuasion to move my positions on those topics.

However, there are countless topics of faith such as the age of the earth (Old?  Young?), method of Baptism (Sprinkling?  Immersion?), etc. that I keep an open mind on.  I also keep an open mind on secular issues – i.e., what is the best way to accomplish the best for society?  If you or others have specific topics where they question others’ open-mindedness, please mention them in the comments section.

Again, is our approach to truth and our worldview really much different than with non-religious people?  Many atheists/agnostics I know seem rather entrenched in their positions.   Is it possible for them to think they possess the “truth” (that there is no God or that He didn’t clearly reveal himself to us) yet still keep open minds? 

Remember, the secular world agrees with much of the evidence that we are grounding our faith upon.  Even skeptics and critics of the Bible concede that Jesus died on a Roman cross, that his body was not located, that many people claimed to have witnessed his post-resurrection appearances and that even more had radically transformed lives and died rather than deny that He was God.  Based on those facts and others I came to the conclusion that the most logical explanation is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that He is God.  Others may draw different conclusions, but that alone doesn’t make either of us close minded.

Previous installments

Tiny tablet provides proof for Old Testament

tablet.jpgFrom the U.K. Telegraph comes this interesting 2,500 year old archeological find that mentions Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, “the chief eunuch” of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon.  He was also mentioned in the Bible. 

Evidence from non-Biblical sources of people named in the Bible is not unknown, but Nabu-sharrussu-ukin would have been a relatively insignificant figure.

“This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find,” Dr Finkel said yesterday. “If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power.”

I love stuff like this.  As Dr. Paul Maier says, “Archeology is the Bible’s best friend.” 

Hat tip: Worlds Apart

Health insurance stuff

medical.jpgThe positive impact of malpractice suit limits in Texas: “Doctors clamoring to come to Texas, creating backlog of applicants.”

Vance did a great series on insurance and managed care.  These examples are good to be aware of in light of the new Michael Moore movie.  Here are just a few of the links.

Is National Health Insurance the Answer? – A brief history on how we got here.

Managed Care – 1

Managed Care – 3

You would think that with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center issues that nationalized healthcare wouldn’t be a winning political issue for this election.  Somebody tell me again how turning over more of this to the Federal Government is going to make it better? 

2 Samuel 19-20

Greetings!

2 Samuel 19-20 (NIV)

19     Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 2 And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” 3 The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

5 Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. 6 You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. 7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from your youth till now.”

8 So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.

This is a good lesson on leadership.  David was understandably upset about losing his son, but he was totally self-absorbed and cared nothing about his men.  Joab was brave and right in rebuking David.

David Returns to Jerusalem

Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes. 9 Throughout the tribes of Israel, the people were all arguing with each other, saying, “The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies; he is the one who rescued us from the hand of the Philistines. But now he has fled the country because of Absalom; 10 and Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, has died in battle. So why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?”

Crowds are fickle.  Trying to please them is difficult.  We should focus on God first (“seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these will be given to you as well”) and everything else will fall into place.  I have seen many business leaders have people fawn all over them.  Then one day the leaders get fired and it is as if they never existed.

11 King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: “Ask the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters? 12 You are my brothers, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king?’ 13 And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my own flesh and blood? May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if from now on you are not the commander of my army in place of Joab.’”

14 He won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man. They sent word to the king, “Return, you and all your men.” 15 Then the king returned and went as far as the Jordan.

Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal to go out and meet the king and bring him across the Jordan. 16 Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 With him were a thousand Benjamites, along with Ziba, the steward of Saul’s household, and his fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed to the Jordan, where the king was. 18 They crossed at the ford to take the king’s household over and to do whatever he wished.

When Shimei son of Gera crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king 19 and said to him, “May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. 20 For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.”

21 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed.”

22 David replied, “What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? This day you have become my adversaries! Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Do I not know that today I am king over Israel?” 23 So the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king promised him on oath.

24 Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also went down to meet the king. He had not taken care of his feet or trimmed his mustache or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safely. 25 When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, “Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?”

26 He said, “My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, ‘I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.’ But Ziba my servant betrayed me. 27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever pleases you. 28 All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who sat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?”

29 The king said to him, “Why say more? I order you and Ziba to divide the fields.”

30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has arrived home safely.”

31 Barzillai the Gileadite also came down from Rogelim to cross the Jordan with the king and to send him on his way from there. 32 Now Barzillai was a very old man, eighty years of age. He had provided for the king during his stay in Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. 33 The king said to Barzillai, “Cross over with me and stay with me in Jerusalem, and I will provide for you.”

34 But Barzillai answered the king, “How many more years will I live, that I should go up to Jerusalem with the king? 35 I am now eighty years old. Can I tell the difference between what is good and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats and drinks? Can I still hear the voices of men and women singers? Why should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? 36 Your servant will cross over the Jordan with the king for a short distance, but why should the king reward me in this way? 37 Let your servant return, that I may die in my own town near the tomb of my father and mother. But here is your servant Kimham. Let him cross over with my lord the king. Do for him whatever pleases you.”

38 The king said, “Kimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him whatever pleases you. And anything you desire from me I will do for you.”

39 So all the people crossed the Jordan, and then the king crossed over. The king kissed Barzillai and gave him his blessing, and Barzillai returned to his home.

40 When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Kimham crossed with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel had taken the king over.

41 Soon all the men of Israel were coming to the king and saying to him, “Why did our brothers, the men of Judah, steal the king away and bring him and his household across the Jordan, together with all his men?”

42 All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “We did this because the king is closely related to us. Why are you angry about it? Have we eaten any of the king’s provisions? Have we taken anything for ourselves?”

43 Then the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king; and besides, we have a greater claim on David than you have. So why do you treat us with contempt? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?”

But the men of Judah responded even more harshly than the men of Israel.

David was very merciful and forgiving upon his return.  He could have had Shimei killed (and he later advises his son, Solomon, to do just that – 1 Kings 2:8-9).  He quickly forgave Mephiboshesh and he rewarded Barzillai. 

Sheba Rebels Against David

20     Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bicri, a Benjamite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted,

“We have no share in David,

no part in Jesse’s son!

Every man to his tent, O Israel!”

2 So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.

3 When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them, but did not lie with them. They were kept in confinement till the day of their death, living as widows.

4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.” 5 But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.

6 David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bicri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.” 7 So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bicri.

8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.

9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bicri.

11 One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” 12 Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him. 13 After Amasa had been removed from the road, all the men went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bicri.

14 Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maacah and through the entire region of the Berites, who gathered together and followed him. 15 All the troops with Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maacah. They built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down, 16 a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.” 17 He went toward her, and she asked, “Are you Joab?”

“I am,” he answered.

She said, “Listen to what your servant has to say.”

“I’m listening,” he said.

18 She continued, “Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel,’ and that settled it. 19 We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?”

20 “Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bicri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.”

The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.”

22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bicri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

23 Joab was over Israel’s entire army; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; 24 Adoniram was in charge of forced labor; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 25 Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 26 and Ira the Jairite was David’s priest.

Joab murders another man, Amasa, whom David had made leader of the army.  He appears to go unpunished, but is later killed for his deeds (1 Kings 2:28-35). 

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What parts of this passage stood out to you?