Friday, September 30, 2011

Is Your Pastor a Doctor or a Snake Oil Salesman?

Modern infomercials often promise one thing and deliver another. They, like the snake-oil peddlers of old, present their product as the answer to a particular problem, but are often completely useless in addressing the issue. We usually realize that we have been deceived all too late. Our time and money is gone, and we are the same weight, of the same intelligence, and with the same problems we had before we ever heard of the product. These are the modern sugar-filled elixirs, replacing much needed medicine, and giving us an immediate and deceptive boost of energy, so that we keep coming back for more. So my question to you today is, Is your pastor a doctor or a "Snake Oil" salesman?

I long ago stopped asking people if their church preaches the Bible. The reason I stopped asking was twofold. The first is that no church I've ever attended claimed that they didn't teach the Bible there. Everyone claims to teach the Bible, and since most people get their ideas of what the church does from what it officially claims to do, they are not likely to disagree with the church. The second, which is related to the first, is that the vast majority of people don't know what it means to sit under a ministry where the Bible is taught to them, so they are completely incapable of identifying when in fact they are in a ministry that doesn't, in fact, preach the Scripture.

So let's just briefly make this distinction: Either the Bible is taught when the message(s) the Bible teaches are taught to the congregation, or the Bible is used when a foreign message(s) to the Bible is taught to the congregation under the pretense that the Bible is actually being taught.

In other words, the open Bible at the pulpit or in the hands of the preacher is simply a platform of authority the preacher uses to teach the message(s) the Bible teaches or his own message(s). The Scripture gives him authority in the eyes of the congregation, but he may use that authority to preach himself rather than Christ. He may use that authority to preach his culture, rather than God's transforming, counter-cultural truth. You may get Paul's theology or you may get Schleiermacher's theology using the words of Paul. You may get Matthew's Gospel or you may get Jung's psychology using the words of Matthew's Gospel. You may get the proverbs of Solomon or you may get the politics of one of the major news organizations using the proverbs of Solomon. My point is that there is a vast difference, as different as they could be, between teaching the Word of God and using the Word of God to teach yourself (i.e., your own ideas).

In the latter, Scripture is simply a prop one uses to gather the crowd around him. He gains their trust and a hearing by quoting from it. He causes everyone to think that he is giving them divine direction by merely holding it as he pontificates on various matters that are important to him, but he doesn't teach those things that are important to God, as he isn't really teaching God's words but his own.

I'm split on what to think about the congregations who sit under such preaching, and they are legion, simply because I want to say that they don't know better. They just have never sat under an actual minister who teaches the Bible, so to them, their pastor, although clear to those who know better, is teaching the Bible. So a part of me has great compassion for the congregations as they, as sheep, while supposedly having a shepherd, are without one. On the other hand, people often choose to sit under those who do not really teach the Scripture because they like it. They don't like those churches that teach the Scripture, not because they choose an unbiblical church over a biblical one consciously, but because their hearts are in rebellion against God and they feel convicted/judged by the preacher when he preaches the Bible.

This leads us to the understanding that most people sit under a ministry that merely uses the Bible because they don't want to change. They don't want to feel that their lives are being lived out contrary to the Word of God. They then choose ministers who will preach things that are consistent with what they already believe (i.e., cultural ideas, whether religious or not, shared by the masses). In other words, they will seek out what tickles rather than what hurts their ears. Paul writes of this very thing in Second Timothy 4:3-4:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.

The term "myth" here refers to an entertaining story, something that delights the senses. In other words, it's sugar-filled elixir. It's snake oil. It stands in the place of medicine. It makes you feel better for the moment, but has no real substance to bring about a solution to the real problem at hand. You may walk out of the sermon each week with a smile on your face, thinking it was the best thing you've ever heard, but you're as sick as you were when you walked in. You've just been duped to think that your pastor's human remedies are curing you when, in fact, they are doing nothing but keeping you from seeking out the true cure.

Because of this, pastors, as teachers, have a greater responsibility in the matter. Whereas I might be conflicted at what to think of the congregations (whether to feel compassion or be angry with them), I am not conflicted with what to think about these "pastors." They are shysters, peddling themselves--arrogant, self-exalting men, who would rather you follow them than Christ. They are always seeking to accumulate disciples for themselves rather than for God. Thus, they preach themselves rather than Christ. They use the authority of the position and the pulpit, which is given for the purpose of exalting God through the proclamation of His Word, to proclaim their own ideas, their own cultural musings. Like the Pharisees who replaced the Scripture with their own man-made teachings, these shall receive the greater condemnation.

But if you are a layman who just wants to follow the Lord and learn from Him through the faithful teaching of the Scripture, how do you know which is which? I mean, both types of pastors are going to make claims about the Bible, both are going to read or quote from it, and both are going to make cultural applications from what is taught, so how do you know?

Let me give just a few guidelines. I ultimately believe that it is the Holy Spirit who draws His people away from the snake oil and into genuine teaching ministries, and that comes about first by convicting the individual that he or she is not presently under one, but if you are looking, here's what you generally can look for (I say "generally" because these are just some possibilities to consider):

1. Has the present ministry you are under given you a greater understanding of the Bible's message(s)? If I ask you what the theology of Matthew is, can you tell me? If I ask you what the message of Genesis is, do you know it? Of course, this will depend upon how long you have sat under that ministry and what biblical books your pastor has covered thus far, but my point is that you ought to know what a book is teaching if you've actually been taught the book. Now, this could be failure on your part to listen, so there is some accountability on your part as well.

2. Do you have a greater understanding of historic Christianity after the sermon than you had before it was preached? Have you actually learned something about the theology and ethics of Christianity that is consistent with what Christians have believed for the past 2,000 years? If what you're learning looks much different than what Christians have always been learning, there might be a problem.

3. And this is an important one. Do you feel convicted by the Word of God, most of the time, to change your thinking and your lifestyle? About 85% of the Scripture is meant to show us the holiness of God through law (that which condemns the rebellious man and gives direction to the saved). This shows us how far we are away from Him and our need to believe the gospel and align our lives with His Word. If you are not convicted, you are not being taught the Bible.

4. Do you feel comforted, after being convicted, by the gospel of Christ and His presence with you? Is Christ actually being preached? Is He the answer to all of the questions and convictions, or are you being given a seven step list of how to implement what is taught to obtain a better marriage, financial success, or save the environment? Christ and Him crucified is the key to all of Scripture. It is the destination of the Scriptural journey. If it isn't, you are not being taught the Bible.

5. Look for a pastor who teaches through the biblical books. This doesn't guarantee that you will be taught the Word of God, since I've seen plenty of pastors still use expository preaching to teach whatever they wanted, but it does provide some controls over the preaching if your pastor is honest. It often forces him to teach what he doesn't want to, what is counter-cultural to himself and to others, and to force himself to think more deeply about the rest of the book that he may not have as much of a problem with. In other words, the larger text provides the greater context both for him and for the congregation to see each individual text within it more clearly. This is merely an opportunity though. Both parties need to pay attention for this to occur.

6. Look for a pastor who is mindful of his own presuppositions. When we are unaware of our presuppositions, we are less likely to know when we are preaching the Bible or ourselves. If your pastor is aware of his own, and is committed to preaching the Word of God (some are aware of their presupps and are not committed, so buyer beware), then he will likely be able to note the source of what he is saying better. As Horton wisely states: "To make a stand, we have to know three things: our biblical faith, our own time, and the differences between the two" (We Believe, 9). Find a pastor who knows the differences between his own preferences and ideas and what the Word of God is teaching.

7. Look for a pastor who doesn't talk about himself all of the time. Allison and I used to watch Joel Osteen quite a bit, and not only were his sermons all the same message, they were all about him as the example to follow in life. Run away at lightening speed from pastors who use the pulpit to talk about themselves, their lives, what they like all the time, as this is a person who will not be able to humble himself to teach someone else, let alone God. He wants you to know and like him. His main goal is not to bring you into the presence of Christ each week by becoming a mere empty vessel through whom Christ can speak. Obviously, all preachers can only relate the Scripture to their experience in application, but I'm talking about the actual teaching portion of the sermon. The text, not the pastor, ought to be in your minds when he preaches the Bible. If it's a funny joke, a cute and endearing story, or his autobiography at center stage, remove your pew warmer and proceed to the nearest exit.

8. Look for a pastor who reads or has a lot of the Scripture in his sermon, especially a lot of Scripture from one place, not just all over the place (the cults quote the Bible all over the place and out of context). So a lot of Scripture read or quoted gives more context for understanding what God is saying and less room for a pastor to take it out of context.

So that's my eight step list to greater spiritual fulfillment (just kidding of course). These are just some things you can look for. All preaching doesn't have to be expository. In our day and age, it just helps in the search. You may be under a great teaching ministry that doesn't go through the books, so guidelines 1 and 5 wouldn't necessarily apply.

But my main point is that you should always be on the lookout for a sermon that is using the Bible rather than teaching it if you really want the presence of Christ in your life. Such is the true medicine that our souls are restless for until they find rest in Him. Such is the salvation of our souls. In fact, Paul's command to Timothy, in contrast to those who teach their own interesting ideas and stories, is to "preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (4:2). So I leave you, not with my own musings, but with the Word of God that is able to save your souls.

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned [them]; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim 3:14-4:5)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Of Homosexuality and Shellfish: A Letter to President Sheen

Charlie Sheen, who I must confess was one of my favorite actors when I was a kid, has gotten much press recently because of his incoherent rants about this or that. But I'm not as interested in that as another Sheen rant that happened much earlier than that of Charlie's.

It was to be a great refutation of the evangelical stance on homosexuality. The great Martin Sheen, Mr. President of the "West Wing," calls out an evangelical radio personality for her calling homosexuality an "abomination." Supposedly, the Bible-savvy president one-ups the radio personality by showing her that the Bible says all sorts of things we don't practice or think are wrong today (of course, many of the things the Bible says were thought to be wrong in the eyes of wayward cultures in biblical times as well, but that's another story). Of course, the show was a big political engine for the left, as it sought to make the liberal viewpoint on every issue look like the right one. I don't usually discuss politics specifically, but this was just an ignorant attack concerning how we should not apply the Bible. You can view it here So here is my letter to the now ex-President.

Dear President Sheen:

You begin your refutation of the conservative radio personality by pointing out that the Bible sanctions slavery in Exodus 21:7. Actually, Mr. President, that's what is called casuistic, or "case," law. What appears in the protasis is the situation, whether seen as wicked or otherwise (usually it is seen as an evil done, as it is here). The sanction is in the apodosis. Hence, God sanctions the provisions that are to be taken when something unjust has been done. These provisions usually provide care for the one against whom the injustice has been applied. So that law doesn't actually sanction selling your daughter into slavery. She can rest assured. But maybe we can argue that your sending her to Georgetown without a transcendent moral compass is like selling her into prostitution, as per Leviticus 19:29?

You, then, mention that you had a Chief of Staff, who worked on the Sabbath, and according to Exodus 35:2, so you say, should be put to death. Actually, Mr. President, you wouldn't have to. You see, the Sabbath law exists as the ultimate proclamation of YHWH as the sovereign of Israel. It proclaims both that the individual is devoted to YHWH and to His work of salvation in the Exodus. Hence, to reject that law by not observing it is to reject YHWH and His salvific work. You can maybe see that if it is true that a relationship with YHWH was the source of life and salvation that practices that taught others by way of example to shun such a relationship were destructive to the entire community. Such a practice would lead to corruption among the Israelites in that they too would begin to shun that proclamation and then the worship of YHWH altogether. Under a theocracy, one that we who are believers assume to be genuine, this is a practice of idolatry, the very thing that damns all of mankind. God would not allow this in His camp, simply because He was not willing to damn His people for the sake of letting a chaotic agent live. Hence, he was to be executed. However, at the advent of Christ, the kingdoms are separated into secular and sacred, state and church, since the kingdom, the theocracy, is made up of all believers from within the nations. Ergo, neither do we carry the sword for our punishments any longer for spiritual matters, nor do we observe the Creation and Exodus event as the primary acts of the salvific works of God to be proclaimed in the observance of a Sabbath. Hence, we observe the day of the Lord, i.e., Sunday, but we reserve our entire lives, not just a single day, for remembering and worshiping the Lord. But I do agree with you that those who shun the assembling of ourselves together and just choose to work instead should be rebuked and placed under church discipline if they persist. That is the sum total of our role as God's people after Israel had served its purpose as the bearers of the divine message for all of humanity. Thanks for allowing me to clarify that point.

Then you mention that the touching of the skin of a dead animal makes one unclean, thus making all of our sports teams defiled. Of course, our sports teams are likely defiled for many reasons, Mr. President, but you should know that, as in any culture, images through customs are constructed for teaching purposes. They are important symbols employed for the instruction of something moral, i.e., principles that are greater (and much more enduring) than the symbol itself. God is the one who made the skin of an animal, and God is the one who set its time of death, so He doesn't think it's morally unclean, as He is the one who made it. What it does do is teach something about sin and corruption through a physical picture of something that is physically dirty. It also has a secondary function of preserving the people from sickness and death, or do you allow your children to play with the corpses of dead animals they find along the road? By the way, that is the reference to which the law is directed. The Israelites obviously touched animal hides for clothing and their shelters, so you might want to look into the context for that one (as with the others).

I confess that when you mention the mixing of seeds and threads as a offenses for which you would have to put your brother and mother to death, I am at a loss. I simply cannot find what you're talking about in the Bible. I noticed you left out the references for these, so I'm simply at a loss when it comes to tracking down that to which you are referring. Both issues are certainly mentioned (Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9, 12), again, as pictures to teach boundaries between morally pure and impure things, but I'm not sure where you're getting that anyone was stoned or burned to death for doing it. Even the immoral activity in one of those passages for which the picture is presented is one where the individuals involved are explicitly forbidden to be put to death (Lev 19:20-22). The other is a case of adultery, which I'm sure you know was a capital crime in most civilized societies for thousands of years, since it was an ultimate betrayal of family and society as a whole. So I'm not sure where you got that one. Perhaps, it was for dramatic effect, so that we would all be in shock and awe at how the Bible is just as unreasonable and harsh as we all imagine and pretend it to be within our modern narrative. Such additions to the text manufacture some much needed wind for empty sails. Perhaps, your argument is just such a sail in need of some hot air, Mr. President.

By the way, thank you so much for not bringing up the argument that shellfish are also an abomination. I have the nasty habit of reading the Hebrew text instead of the English, so I know that the word used (hb(wt) in Deuteronomy14:3 is qualified by the word Cq# in Leviticus 11:10-23, which is not the word for a moral abomination to the Lord, but to something that is disgusting to us. In fact, one does not even need to read the Hebrew, as this law is continually clarified, even in English translations as that which is disgusting Mkl "to you" (i.e., the Israelites). I guess bugs and slimy things weren't as appetizing to them as they are to us, so God decided to use it as another teaching-picture about the holy versus the profane. The Israelites themselves were an abomination to the Egyptians, but they weren't to God. This is different when something is actually an abomination in and of itself, because it is an abomination to the Lord, not necessarily to us. In fact, if homosexuality was disgusting to us, there would be no need to command us not to do it. This also tells us that the commands concerning shellfish must just be representative of something moral, since the Israelites wouldn't eat them anyway. So the disgust of shellfish is culturally bound to the Israelites, since it is they who find it disgusting, and it is to and through them that revelation comes into the world. What is not culturally bound is that which is an abomination to God, since He is not culturally bound or trying to give Himself a symbolic lesson on holiness. It just must be an abomination, period.

Thanks for your honest engagement, Mr. President. I enjoy Hollywood Presidents the most, since there is no sense of reality or accountability to what one argues. There is only the aesthetics of rhetoric that muster blind emotion to gear the masses of sheep over the cliff. If the problem is that you don't have a Bible, I can send you one, so that next time you can read those verses you quoted in context rather than cut and pasted onto a teleprompter. Thank you for your invaluable service to our country. We're a much more ethically astute people for it.


Bryan C. Hodge
President of ITAC (i.e., the Informed Tight ### Club)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Promise Made, a Covenant Broken

The main problem with those who profess to be believers dating unbelievers is their misunderstanding of the gospel itself. When we misidentify the nature of our entrance into a relationship with God, we misidentify whether we are in that relationship. When we misidentify ourselves, we misidentify others as well. If I do not know what a Christian actually is, I will likely not know how to identify one as a Christian beyond his or her claim to be one. Hence, if it is the gospel that makes one a Christian, then getting the gospel wrong is simply disastrous to our lives and our ability to glorify God with them. As Luther once said to the illogical moralist Erasmus, "How do I know what to do if I do not know what to believe?"

If you ask the professed believer what the gospel is, he or she will likely tell you that Jesus died on the cross to forgive them of their sins, and if they believe, they'll be saved. At least, you would hope to get this much; but this isn't the entire gospel--at least, not in the way the modern person understands the term "believe." To a modern person, belief is theoretical. As we discussed before, however, belief has to do with allegiance to God. It is entering a relationship with God that norms all other relationships. In other words, our allegiance to God is defection toward the lives we were building at the time we made that allegiance. What I'm speaking of here is repentance, a rejection of the self, a changing of the mind about life, a turning of one's life in a different direction.

Notice that when John the Baptist comes preaching, he says, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand" (Matt 3:2). This is the call of the prophets. But what is interesting is that when the Lord Jesus begins to preach the gospel, His message is the same, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (4:17). He condemns the cities in Matthew 11 because they did not repent. In Acts 2:38, Peter preaches that the Jews to whom he is speaking must "repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus [i.e., dedicate one's life to Christ]" in order to have their sins forgiven. He again says, "Repent and return, in order that your sins may be wiped away" (3:19). In Second Corinthians, Paul tells us that there is "a sorrow that is brought about by God that produces a repentance that leads to a salvation without regret" (7:10). And the writer of Hebrews calls the "repentance from dead works "basic teaching about Christ" that makes up the "foundation" of Christianity.

Does this mean that belief is not what the gospel requires? Of course it does. We are told that repentance is a part of belief. Many times the term "believe" will either stand with it or alone. Many times, as we see from some of the examples above, repentance stands alone. This is because repentance and belief are intertwined in Scripture. He who believes, repents. He who repents, believes. One cannot make the biblical step of receiving the gospel without the other. This is because the gospel is commanding our allegiance to Christ. It is calling us to turn away from the self, i.e., the desires and pursuits of the corrupted life we have built (and others have helped to build in us), and turn toward the life that Christ would build for us. This means that repentance is giving up self-direction and giving the direction of our lives and decisions over to Christ.

Hence, where the modern person describes a Christian as someone who believes the facts about the gospel, the Bible describes a Christian as one who has given his or her life over to Christ, who is not merely his or her Savior in a theoretical sense, but is his or her Lord as well. Incidentally, what He is saving, even as Savior, is not merely the person's disembodied soul in the day of judgment, but the person from a life of self-direction and treachery of sin today. Hence, Christ is not my buddy that gives me good advice as I decide what to do with my own little world. He is the Lord of my world. He decides what I will do with it. If He commands, I seek to obey. That is the nature of the true Christian's relationship with Him. That is the commitment one has made. If such a commitment has not been made, then one is merely a catechumen, one who is merely learning about Christ from the outside, and not a Christian, one who is learning from Him within a relationship with Him as Lord. The message of repentance is a message to us of Christ's Lordship that would have our allegiances turned over to Him. Hence, the gospel is "Repent/Believe," not simply "Believe" within the framework of our modern theoretical thinking toward an object.

So what exactly is the promise I made when I became a Christian? I promised to follow Him. I promised to listen and obey Him. After all, it is the person who hears and does what he is told that builds his house on the rock, not merely the person who hears. Those who merely learn without doing are cast away from Him as those who practice anomia "lawlessness," which describes a self rule without an external authority (Matt 7:21-27). The promise that was made was to give up the pursuit of all that is not glorifying and pleasing to Christ.

So can the person who enters into a relationship with an unbeliever in disregard of Christ's Lordship in his life really be called a believer? That depends whether he is aware of what God commands. It is possible to be deceived as a believer. It is possible to sin as a believer. But is it possible to completely reject the relationship of Christ as Lord in life altering ways, and without repentance, remain a believer? I don't think so. In fact, the Bible seems to indicate that to enter into a relationship with an unbeliever is not only a sin, but the sin. It is the sin of rejecting Christ. It is the sin of repudiating the gospel. It is the sin of aligning oneself again with the demonic, self-willed life one was leading before. It is the sin of throwing away one's relationship with Christ, breaking the covenant made with Him through the gospel, and burning the bridge he must cross to be saved. The promises of God in salvation, after all, are promises made to those who make their allegiance with Him through the gospel, not to those who are outside that relationship. To set aside the relationship, then, is to set aside the possibility of one's own salvation and citizenship in the kingdom of God, where the person has opted for corruption over holiness.

Hence, we see why God commands all of those who entered into such relationships with unbelievers to be destroyed, cut off from among His people, rebuked as the enemies of God, and condemned. The entire teaching of the Bible on the matter comes to a head in Paul's statement in First Timothy:

But refuse [to put] younger widows [on the list of financial support], for when they are drawn away by their own affections from Christ, they want to get married, [thus] incurring damnation, having repudiated/rejected their previous faith commitment. (5:11-12)

This refers to young widows who want to get married "in disregard of Christ," that is, in disregard to the commitment they made to be devoted to Him. This does not refer to some commitment to stay single, as Paul tells them that he wants them to "get married, bear children, manage the household" in verse 14. The only problem Paul would see, then, with them marrying is when it is contrary to the will of Christ, and the only marriage contrary to the will of Christ that Paul mentions before is someone who does not marry in Christ (i.e., a believer). In First Corinthians 7, Paul states that a widow is free to marry, "but only in the Lord" (v. 39). To marry an unbeliever is to reject the faith. That is the entire teaching of the New Testament that has been gained from the teaching of the Old Testament. God's will is clear. Christ's will is clear. There is nothing more to say about it. To enter into a romantic relationship, or to even entertain and play with the idea, is to reject, or entertain and play with the idea of rejecting, Christ and one's commitment made in his or her supposed reception of the gospel.

And that is the most important point to be made here. This is a gospel issue, not just some minor life choice that can be made along with one's commitment to Christ. It is a matter of one receiving or rejecting Christ, as Christ will only be Savior when He is Lord (He only saves that which belongs to Him, as that which belongs to Him is a part of Him, and since He is saved, what is a part of Him is saved with Him). It does not matter if it all "works out." The gravest of sins has been committed. Is there no repentance for what one has done? Is there no repentance for what one is doing? Then there is no faith in Christ. There is no gospel of salvation. There is no Christ in one's Christianity. If there was, repentance would be there too. It is the constant companion to the Christian for the rest of his days.

Hence, the "believer" who dates a non-Christian, which is defined by a lack of the same repentance above (not by a mere lack of a profession of belief in facts about Christ), shows him or herself to not be a believer at all, having thrown off the eternal love of Christ to gain what is perishing. He or she joins his or her selves to what perishes because he or she is perishing with it. Like Judas, who came to believe that thirty pieces of silver was more valuable than his commitment to Christ, the unbeliever is put in the place of Christ as well. The unbeliever is the so-called believer's thirty pieces of silver, and whether his profession to have given up all to follow Christ is true will be displayed, not only in whether he receives that bribe, but also in how much he contemplates taking it. The one who professes to be a Christian, and yet pursues a romantic relationship with an unbeliever, in thought or deed, has taken the devil's bait, and as with most traitors, will often see his folly all too late. He has become a kissing Judas. He both proclaims his affections for the Lord and betrays Him all at the same time.

The one who truly loves Christ, and has truly come to know Him, will hear these words and weep in repentance like Peter. The one who does not, and never came to know Him, will weep one day, but in regret looking back, not in repentance looking forward. If you claim to be a Christian, and have entered, or are contemplating entering, such a relationship with an unbeliever, let me simply ask you this, "Which one are you? A Peter, or a kissing Judas? Only what you do now will bare it out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Are Romantic Relationships For?

The previous posts allow us to see why God might take such an issue with believers dating unbelievers, but there is more to it than what we’ve discussed so far. Our romantic relationships exist for a primary reason: to raise up covenant children.

In Genesis 1, we are told that God creates the heavens and the earth, but before He does the state of the earth is described in verse 2. In the second verse of chapter 1, we come upon the state of the earth in chaos; and that chaos is described in very specific ways. The descriptions we see there all pertain to human existence or rather human nonexistence. First, the earth is described with two Hebrew words. The first word is tōhû. The word tōhû appears throughout the Bible as a word that describes an unlivable environment. It is often seen as a desert or some sort of wasteland where human existence is either difficult or impossible to maintain. The term tōhû does not describe a place where existence of all creatures is impossible, but specifically has to do with the human factor. It is very important to note, therefore, since animals can live in the wasteland, that the very first word that describes the earth in Genesis is a word concerned with human existence, or rather, the lack thereof. 

This is confirmed by the second word that describes the earth in verse 2, the Hebrew word bōhû. The word bōhû only occurs three times within the Hebrew Bible; and it is always in collocation with the word tōhû. The word bōhû, as opposed to tōhû, does not describe an uninhabitable place, but instead describes the very lack of human existence within that place. In other words, if tōhû describes lack of human habitation, bōhû describes lack of human inhabitants—the one describing the absence of a livable environment and the other describing the absence of humans who do not live within it. 

This understanding of bōhû is confirmed by the fact that when it is used of a desolate city, due to its lack of human inhabitants, it does not negate the presence of animal life (Isa 34:11). Hence, all we have in the description of the earth in Genesis 1:2 is a statement that humans cannot live there and therefore do not live there. If there is any doubt about the hostile environmental conditions, the rest of the verse paints a picture of the earth that confirms its inability to support and sustain human life. Not only is it described as a dark place, a place where there is no light, but it is also described as a place enveloped by the primordial waters. As such it cannot support human existence. 

The problem of the earth existing in its primordial state, therefore, is that it cannot support human life, and this is the purpose of the actions God takes to create the world. He wants to make it a place where humans will thrive.

In fact, we are told in verses 26-28 that God made them male and female for this purpose: to fill up the earth with covenant children. Let’s break the passage down a bit.

Verses 3-25 are meant to reverse the state of tōhû, where God has made an environment capable of supporting human life. The disordered state of the world that disallowed such a human existence now is ordered, and thus beneficial for human life (this is what the Hebrew word bw+ “good” means in this text—it does not refer to a morally good or perfect quality, although it does not preclude it either, but to what is beneficial, i.e., "good" for the existence of a human-filled world).

In verses 26-31, we have the reversal of bōhû. Notice that the reversal is not just in making the man and woman, but in making them “male and female” for the purpose of filling up the earth with their human children. In this regard, they are called God’s image because the image in ancient Near Eastern culture represents the rule and victory of the deity over chaos in that area. The presence of the image displays that God’s rule is present there. Hence, their participation in the role as God’s image is directly connected to them “being fruitful and multiplying.” It is through this means, through the having of children, that they will cultivate and turn the world from a human-less place to a human-filled one. In other words, they participate in God’s creative work in the world as His image, and this is accomplished by the male and female sexes that come together for that purpose.

Hence, marriage is primarily (not solely, but primarily) for this purpose. It is to allow God to bring about children through the relationship. The problem is that in Chapter 3, the Fall occurs and humanity is there divided into those who seek to follow God and those who seek to follow themselves. In other words, there are now two humanities (as we discussed before). So the job of those who would follow God now is to continue true humanity that follows God. Hence, it is not simply the bearing of children that is the goal, since the situation we are now in does not guarantee that those children will be followers of God, but instead our role is to have and raise them in the Lord. Hence, the goal is to have godly children who have God as the center of their lives. This is the work of creation. This is what Genesis considers good. To work against this by seeking relationships for the self is to participate in the destruction of true humanity. It is to do evil. And this is worked out through the rest of the book, on through the Pentateuch, and throughout the rest of the Bible.

Hence, instructions to parents, and really the whole community, is to teach children to saturate their lives in obedience to the Word of God (Deut 6:5-9). In Proverbs, we are told to instruct our children in the fear of God as the wise author is doing with his son. And the hope of the Christian parent is to do all of this in view of Christ and His work as Timothy’s grandmother and mother had done (2 Tim 1:5 with 3:14-15).

So we can imagine how much of a sin it truly is to enter into a relationship with someone who will work against this simply by nature of their thinking and lifestyle. In contrast to believers who are said to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are told that unbelievers are the temple of demons rather than of God.

Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange--I speak as to children--open wide [to us] also. Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. "And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,"  Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 6:11-7:1)

Contrary to popular belief that this refers to business partnerships, Paul contrasts the temples when speaking of more physical and spiritual unions (cf. 1 Cor 6:13-20). And we can see the importance of such a prohibition, since it leads to a demonic influence in one’s own and in one’s children’s lives. To marry an unbeliever is to join with them rather than to come out from among them and be spiritually separate from them. Such is all the more difficult to accomplish when one joins a holy temple reserved for God with a demonic temple that exists for the idols of the self. Hence, Paul uses the phrase “unequally yoked” to depict two oxen pulling at different rates that will inevitably lead the yoke to sway and pull in opposite directions, the one working for and the one working against making a holy family with godly children.

Hence, in Malachi 2, God is sickened by the Israelites who attempt to maintain good standing with him through religious rituals, all the while marrying women who were not believers. They were religious, to be sure, but they were not devoted to YHWH God. They were the daughters of a foreign god. The Israelites are thus rebuked for abandoning their Israelite women (i.e., believers), with whom they were to be raising and setting an example for their children, to marry unbelievers.

Yet, God tells them that He made them "one," a reference to the male and female union of Genesis 1-2, for the purpose of raising godly offspring to the Lord. The KJV and NKJV translate this difficult Hebrew passage closest to what I would.

But did He not make [them] one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one?  He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

We have come full circle, then, as God prohibits such relationships, precisely, because they work against His goal of filling the earth with covenant children. He, therefore, refers to divorce as something He hates (because it interferes with the godly upbringing of children) and He refers to the marrying of unbelievers as an abomination (the same word used for God’s disgust with homosexuality) because it sets the sexual/romantic relationship as antagonistic toward the bearing of godly children in the same way that various forms of sexual immorality do.

Hence, God says that the person who marries an unbeliever is to be cut off from among the people (i.e., the OT equivalent to damnation). Thus, rather than giving grace in the area (as grace is given upon repentance, not in the lack thereof), God is pleased with the spearing to death of the Israelite man who enters into a romantic relationship with an unbeliever who is not devoted to YHWH (Num 25:1-15). Such relationships are born for corruption of children and the breeding of new chaotic agents who work against a human-filled world. They are the anti-creation, false humanity, and as such, the act of entering into a romantic relationship with an unbeliever is itself an evil act that works toward chaos and against the work of God in the world.

Thus, this is no minor sin. It is the sin of sins, as it throws off the very purpose of true humanity that seeks to worship God as His image by filling up the earth with godly people, and adopts a relationship that interferes with and works against that purpose.

Now, if you have not made a promise to the Lord to follow him, and do not consider yourself a Christian, then this won’t mean that much to you; but if you have, then it is important to review the nature of that commitment and understand what your next steps should be if you have thought about or already have entered into such a relationship with an unbeliever. We’ll pursue that next time.

[Let a widow be considered as a godly woman to be taken care of if she is] reported to have good works, i.e., the raising up of children . . . (1 Tim 5:9)

[The marks of a godly man to be considered for the eldership are that he is] above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion . . . (Titus 1:6)

Monday, September 26, 2011

We Seek What We Love the Most

I'm sure you've read or heard the story of Narcissus. He was a hunter renown for his beauty. He was so entranced with himself, he couldn't tolerate his lesser attractive admirers. He was tricked by Nemesis, his nemesis, into looking at a reflection of himself in a pool of water. He was so infatuated with his own reflection, he couldn't leave it behind. Thus, he died.

When we are infatuated with something, when we love it, we find it difficult to leave it behind and move on. This is because what we love often reflects a part of us that we love. To leave it behind is to leave a part of ourselves behind with it. We cannot deprive ourselves of ourselves, so we choose to keep it in our lives. The same is true in our relationships. We often love the person to whom we relate the most. We either relate to them because (1) they have attributes that we have, (2) they have attributes we believe we have, but don't, or (3) they have attributes we wish we had. We do this because we ultimately love what we admire, and we admire either what we are or (more likely, if you're not like Narcissus) wish to be. If we didn't admire these attributes, we wouldn't have them or seek them out in others.

Now, what does this have to do with dating unbelievers? I would suggest that an unbeliever is more attractive to someone than a believer simply for the same reasons: what that person admires/loves the most is found to a greater degree in the unbeliever than it is in the believer. As I spoke about in the preceding post, our relationship with God, which is either one where we have come to see Him as most admirable, to be loved the most, will influence our other relationships. This is because when we come to see God as most lovely, we come to seek out His attributes everywhere in other people. This is why a true believer seeks out Christian fellowship, especially in the church, because God's attributes are being (or should be) displayed more strongly through them. The believer does not have to go to church. The believer wants to go to church, because he or she is drawn to the other believers there, as he or she is drawn to Christ who is displayed in them. We seek out what we love, so we seek out relationships with people who display what we love the most.

Now, this is more troubling for someone claiming to be a believer, and yet, dating an unbeliever, as the unbeliever, though not devoid of certain admirable attributes to a lesser degree, lives his life in the absence of God as the ruling factor that puts all other things into perspective. In other words, Christ is not his love in life, so what he seeks out are depraved counterfeits for God. He loves depravity. He loves a godless life devoid of God's attributes as Savior and Lord. He does not talk about the Lord as the center of his existence. He does not live as though the Lord is the center of his existence. And he does not think about the Lord as the center of his existence. Why? Because the Lord is not the center of his existence. And this is what the Christian finds appalling. A godless life is not attractive to a genuine Christian. The Christian may have compassion upon such a life, but not in a way that wants to join our Christ-filled lives with his Christ-less life. We don't admire it. We think it's pathetic and that his whole life needs to change.

So why are people who are not Christians still attractive to we who are? Well, there are always attributes that non-Christians have that we will admire. It's just that we will admire Christ so much more than those that our attraction for those lesser attributes will fade in the light of Him. So attraction is manifold, but what we are attracted to the most is what we love and admire the most.

Hence, a genuine relationship with God that gives us a greater love for Him than we have for anything or anyone else will affect how powerful our attraction is to another person. Anyone can sin and do otherwise, but this should be seen as a breakdown in one's relationship with, and love for, Christ, rather than simply a mistake that needs fixing by mustering up our will power and trying in our own human strength and ability to do what is right. That will lead to law/obligation rather than love, and law/obligation without love always leads to disobedience and death. Instead, the problem of believers dating unbelievers is a problem of their relationship with God. In fact, whether they make a turn from it is a good indication of what they love the most, which itself is a good indication of whether they have a relationship with Christ in the first place. Hence, again, the so-called believer may, in all truth, be an unbeliever and that is why he or she is attracted to unbelievers the most.

Now, there is another way our deceptive selves will try to have the best of both worlds. When we love something, we have the tendency to justify it. We will emphasize what we see as good attributes that allow us to keep the person with whom we have a relationship, and deemphasize the bad attributes that scream out to us that we need to end this relationship. Like buying a car that we really want, we pass over the defects, and those things to which we really should be paying attention, in order to pretend that the car is in great shape and is "buyable." So we convince ourselves that the unbeliever is more like a believer than other unbelievers are; or, at the very least, that he will become a believer in the future. Hence, our relationship with him is justified, simply because he is a believer by way of technicality. In other words, even if Christ is not the Lord of his life, he lives as though he is, or at least, he will.

The person is satisfied with this type of reasoning because it allows him or her to keep the relationship with the individual to whom they are most attractive; but what he or she fails to see is that the question is not whether the person is technically a believer or will be at some point in the future, but whether he or she (i.e., the professed believer) is attracted to a person, who at this moment reflects the ruling presence of God and His love less in his life than those who are true believers. The fact of the matter is that the person whom we love today indicates what we love today. It shows us whether we love God today. If the person we love also loves God, that says something about us, where we are at in terms of our relationship with God, not simply something about the other person.

So the problem before us is not a matter of getting the person we love saved, so that our pursuit of this person will then be acceptable, but it is a matter of understanding that our very pursuit of this person when they were not saved is an indication that we are not saved either. Hence, when Paul says that those who seek to get married contrary to Christ have set aside their faith, and stand condemned, he is not saying that faith no longer saves, but that they never had true faith to begin with. The superficial faith, one that is not accompanied by the love of God as its supreme driving force in life, cannot stand on a sea of lesser attractions without sinking into them, simply because God is not the person's supreme attraction and love in life.

Ironically, this person is not pursuing what is best, but settling for what is worse. As C. S. Lewis once said, "our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased" (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 54). The "believer" who has never come to know the infinite joy of the love of God as that which determines every other decision in life has settled for a lesser relationship as he has settled for a lesser life. He has settled for the mud pie of a relationship with an unbeliever, simply because he is ignorant that the relationship he supposedly cannot live without is actually slop compared to the relationship God has offered to him in Christ. Not only this, but it is slop compared to the other relationships that emulate our love for God that he would have had if he himself loved God in his primary relationship with Him.

So we seek out what we love; and it simply does no good to try to mold what we love to look like something else that others tell us it should look like, because our love is evident by what we love, not by what we pretend it to be. We can paint refuse to look like gold, but we would only do so because we love that refuse. If we loved gold, there would be no substitute, and it certainly wouldn't be refuse. So one must take a hard look at himself and ask the tough questions, "What does it say about me to choose an unbeliever over a believer in my quest for a romantic relationship?" "What does it say about my relationship with God?" and "Should I continue to call myself a believer if I choose such a relationship in the betrayal of my professed faith and love for God?" We can then begin to see that it is the unbeliever who is kissing Judas because the betrayal is found in the one who professes a loving allegiance with God, but who breaks that promise of friendship through his actions.

Like Narcissus, we will not be able to leave behind what we love. We will die there, giving up all else to gaze into what we love. But what we love reflects who we are. It tells us about ourselves. Our relationships are the pool that remove all pretenses, and (for better or for worse) make our true loves known. All else will fall by the wayside, and be abandoned in the pursuit of whatever shines to us the brightest. If we knew the truth, it would be Christ; but we don't all know the truth, and that is the problem.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Doctrine Matters for Life, not Just Theory (“Believing that” rather than “Believing in”)

There have always been two ways to look at theology. The first is to see theology as a set of doctrines to which one must give assent in order to be considered a Christian. For these people, what one believes seals their identity as Christians. In other words, they believe that Jesus died for their sins. Hence, this belief makes them Christians, regardless of how that belief affects their life decisions. It’s the club pledge that makes them a member. To them, belief that the Christian message is true makes them believers. The difference, therefore, between these “believers” and the unbelievers with whom they are acquainted is simply in terms of theoretical knowledge that has been reduced further to a simple opinion or preference of belief, sort of like believing that Chicago Style Pizza is better than New York Style Pizza. It may determine what you personally believe is true, but no one is going to actually drive to either city in order to get their preference if they live in Dallas, Texas.

This is what we call dead orthodoxy. It's mere belief that has no real influence in a person's life. This manifests itself in two ways: (1) the person merely looks at their "conversion" experience when they believed the gospel and prayed a prayer as evidence of their Christian status. (2) the person looks to particular doctrines that they believe as evidence of their Christianity. Both of these forms of dead orthodoxy give a false conviction that one is a Christian merely by his assent to the truth, without his submission to it. In either case, dead orthodoxy fails to note that Christianity is found in the person of Christ. In other words, there is a personal destination to whom the path of orthodoxy leads. Michael Horton sums up this way:

It is the view that faith is in propositions rather than in a person. Instead of Jesus Christ being the object of faith, the doctrines about Jesus become our hope. This is hardly a living relationship with a person, so it is understandable that people with this defective view of faith show little personal interest in God or Christian faith and practice. They've given their assent to all the right things and that is their religion. In fact, they will often fight vehemently for their orthodoxy, but in actual practice, their hearts are far from the One to whom their words refer. (We Believe, 14)

Dead orthodoxy, of course, does not describe someone's emotional state toward their form of Christianity. The person can be excited about Christianity, or simply melancholy toward it. The point is is that their identification as a Christian is due to what they have technically believed to be true, not their employment of those beliefs as a means to serve God in their thoughts, actions, and relationships. So they may appear without joy, or they may be bouncing off the walls for Jesus. Either way, their religion has nothing to do with their daily decision-making, especially in terms of how their lesser relationships are affected by a relationship with God.

The second way of seeing theology is to see it as the definitions that provide boundaries for a relationship with the true God through the real work He has actually done in the world. In other words, right theology only shows the way to a submissive relationship with God and shines the light on our humility toward God to believe in what He has said, so as to destroy, reorder, and rebuild our lives so that they are prepared to receive God’s supremacy in everything we think, say, and do. Theology tells me if I am worshiping the true God or a false one. It tells me if I am approaching Him through the means He has provided for me to do so. It let’s me know how close or how far away my thoughts are from His, so that I can reorient them toward Him. In other words, doctrine isn’t merely something I believe is true, but something that guides my entire way, my whole life, with Christ at the helm. It is relational, and it therefore affects all of my subsequent relationships, as they too must be reoriented toward my worship of God through the truth. Horton again notes:

What we have to realize is that genuine faith-- as knowledge, assent, and trust-- is the act of casting oneself on God's promise in Christ. Faith, this ability to say, "I believe . . .," in more than either an experientialist or intellectualist way, is a gift from God, but it is we who believe. God does not believe for us and the truths do not save us simply by being true. We have to take a risk.
Unlike the detached observation with which a biologist studies organisms under a microscope, the knowledge we have of God is personal, like the knowledge we have of other people. Without knowing something about a certain person, we can hardly entertain a relationship, and yet, knowing things about someone is not the same thing as knowing a person. Knowledge of truth is a means to a greater end, the end of actually enjoying God's fatherly goodness and forgiveness in Christ. In Christian faith, we do not study God and Christian truths as observers, but as players. It demands self-involvement, as we take our stand . . . here we risk ourselves, not merely in terms of being right, but in terms of being saved. God is my God. (We believe, 14-15)

In the former view of theology, I believe the content of something distant from my real life. It’s like rooting for a particular football team. I may have some debates about it, but it largely doesn’t interrupt or interfere with my relationships, as it does not define my primary relationship with God. 

In the latter, however, every lesser relationship is determined by my primary relationship with God, which itself is defined by the truth I believe. Hence, my being a Christian is a label gained from God’s rule over all of my relationships in life as it is itself a designation reserved only for those who have a relationship with God in the truth. In other words, I believe in the truth that Jesus died for my sins as a vehicle of repentance through which I enter a relationship with God that will change all of my other relationships with people, especially my romantic ones. The truth changes my life. It is not merely a list I must believe to be in a club that largely does not affect my most important decisions in life (like with whom I choose to enter into a romantic relationship or even think about doing so). My love for God as a Christian precludes certain types of relationships, as well as certain people with whom I might have had a relationship had I not become a Christian. 

It’s not only the case, therefore, that a genuine Christian can’t pursue a relationship with an unbeliever that does not honor his or her relationship with God (that much is true), but that he or she doesn’t even want to in the first place. The desire to do so evidences a lack in one’s relationship with God, and likely indicates either an unstable immaturity or a complete absence of a genuine relationship with God altogether. 

Hence, many “Christians” who pursue romantic relationships with unbelievers do so because they are, in terms of what makes a real Christian according to the biblical relationship defined therein, unbelievers themselves. They merely have a different set of beliefs about God, but those beliefs do not lead them to the ultimate relationship with God that orients all other relationships toward an obedient worship of Christ. Hence, there is simply no Christ in their Christianity, and that causes there to be no Christ in their other relationships either.

The gospel is simply something one puts in his pocket for judgment day. It is not good news today, since it has not been received in love, and today it seeks to take from me a life I have built in worship of myself. It will be good news then, because the self is in danger of hell. Hence, the reception of the gospel was never to repent and turn over one’s life to Christ as Lord, but to merely preserve an ongoing selfishness to get what we want out of life and to not go to hell for it. It exists as fire insurance, rather than a means through which we must rethink our entire lives (including all relationships that make up our lives).
We can, therefore, begin to understand the seriousness of what kind of romantic relationships we choose to pursue, as well as with whom we pursue them, as they do not simply identify what we do as Christians, but whether we are Christians at all.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Egalitarianism versus the Biblical View of Humanity

You might think by the title I'm going to talk about gender roles, but I'm not. Today, I want to begin though by bringing back to your mind yet another blockbuster hit of the 80's. If you enjoy quality films fit only for the elite of our society, then you will have enjoyed the movie, "They Live," starring the (should have been) academy award winning thespian (and occasional Wrestler),  Rowdy Roddy Piper. For those of you who haven't had the privilege of viewing this high quality flic, let me summarize it for you.

In the movie, Piper's character is an average Joe, going about his average life, when someone gives him a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see that half of the "humans" who live around him are actually aliens disguised as humans. These aliens are actually a part of a military occupation that is attempting to enslave humans by persuading them to obey them through the various forms of media within the culture. Very few humans know of this, however, because the aliens look exactly like other humans, that is, unless you have the sunglasses that allow you to see otherwise.

It's a dumb movie, I know, but it functions as a great analogy of something that is actually true. In our cultural indoctrination, we have been trained to believe that there is only one humanity. All humans are the same, and should be given equal respect, equal consideration, equal opportunity, and equal authority. No one group should be seen as superior to the others. If you're unsure whether the culture has indoctrinated you to believe this, I encourage you to sit down and watch the old Christmas movies, like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Rudolph's Happy New Year" and "Nester, the Long Eared Christmas Donkey" back to back. You can also watch pretty much any Disney movie from the time of "Dumbo" on. The message is that the different guy should be considered just as important as the rest of us because his differences can make up for our lack in some way. So everyone is important in their own way. No one should be considered an outcast because they're different. In other words, different isn't bad. It's good, and should receive the same status as that which we consider to be good already.

Now, this egalitarianism had a good result in terms of accepting others who we rejected for stupid reasons. In fact, many of this may have had the intent to destroy racism. It's influence in that area has had good results. We might say it was a good brainwashing then, but I would still say that it wasn't. Even when you get good results from a bad philosophy, that bad philosophy will come back and bite you for it (and it has). Racism is bad for all sorts of reasons, but not because all of humanity is one race, i.e., to be considered equally a part of the larger group. A serial killer should not be seen as a valuable contributor to a girls' sorority house. He doesn't belong there, and his presence will do a lot of damage. What egalitarianism gets right, however, is that no one should be excluded based on his or her race, skin color, or economic status. These are the stupid reasons for seeing others as those who should be excluded from larger groups.

What it gets wrong, however, is that we are all one humanity. This only appears to be true to the natural eye, and especially to our culturally conditioned eyes; but we are given revelation that not only tells us otherwise, but makes much more sense of our world than the "we are one" mentality (as an aside, this "there is only one humanity" idea is likely why Eastern religions that promote pantheism and panentheism [i.e., monistic views of the world] are valued so highly in our cultural imagination).

So what does the Scripture teach us? It actually teaches us that there are two races in the eyes of God, not one and not many. These races are not divided up by geography, economic status, skin color, ethnicity, or gender. These are criteria that people throughout history have used to divide their groups, but the Bible speaks against this at every turn (yes, even in the OT and Conquest accounts, you might be surprised to know--or do you think that Rahab was an Israelite and Achan, a Canaanite?).

The criteria the Bible uses, however, is based upon those who follow God, as His representatives in the world, and those who follow the self, i.e., those who are "as God." In other words, the division of the two races is based upon what faith one holds. We refer to these groups as believers and unbelievers, but these terms do not merely refer to what one theoretically believes, but to how he lives according to those beliefs. Ultimately, we should just describe it as those who have an allegiance with YHWH God, based on His terms, and those who either have no stated allegiance with Him or have their supposed allegiances with Him on their own terms. Hence, the two groups are defined by whether Jesus is Lord over their thoughts and lives.

This has been the distinction the Bible has made from the beginning, a distinction our egalitarian society does not appreciate. In Genesis, the two groups are divided at the Fall when the adversary gains a foothold into the world. Some of humanity will belong to him, and follow him in their self exaltation. Others will belong to God, and follow Him in the subjugation of their lives to His life-giving, creation-oriented, work in the world. God thus declares that they will always be at war with one another, and that war will be fought on the basis of God's role in those groups. In other words, God Himself is the reason for their hostility toward one another:

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your children and her children; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." (3:16)

Notice that God is the One who sets the hostility between them. His place in their lives will cause the two groups to be at odds with one another--one group always pulling life toward a self-willed existence and the other toward a YHWH God-willed existence.

Genesis follows these two groups through Cain, who represents the serpent's offspring, and Abel, who represents the woman's (the woman, Eve (i.e., havvah "life"), is seen as God's vehicle to create human life. Hence, the woman's seed in 3:16 is God's offspring, i.e., those who belong to God.

Cain is the murderer of Abel. This is what unbelievers do to believers. They are the destroyers of life. Cain's genealogy, then, describes them as destroyers. Seth's (who fills in for Abel) genealogy is characterized by procreation. It seeks life, not death, because it has subordinated itself to God and has become the image of Adam who is the image of God (i.e., it has continued the role as life-givers under God's rule). In other words, believers are agents of life in the world, lifting up God's rule as the source of life, and unbelievers are chaotic agents in the world, lifting up themselves as the gods of their own lives. We are told that this attitude toward life leads to death and corruption of the world that God has made. When the two groups mingle as one, God must destroy the world in the Flood, as all of humanity has become chaotic and false. It is saved through one in the line of Seth, Noah, an agent of life, through whom true humanity lives on. Eventually this role goes to Abraham and his children, Israel, and then to Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of it. Christians now simply mimic Christ the ultimate agent of life in the world.

Hence, the world is filled with both believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers are not of the same humanity to which believers belong. They live. They walk among us. But they are not all of us. As John says of those who claim to be Christians but reject apostolic teaching, "If they were of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out in order that it might be known that they are all not of us" (1 John 2:19). 

This is a crucial distinction in the Bible, since the failure to know the difference is a failure to guard the divine image in one's own life. The corrupting and destructive influence of the unbeliever to the believer remains throughout the Bible and in our modern world; but so much of that corruption has already taken place that we can't tell the difference anymore. We need the glasses of Scripture. Without it, we're blinded to the distinctions. Everyone looks to be a part of a single human race.

So the distinctions aren't physical or according to status. You can't see them with the naked eye. Ironically, what divides believers from unbelievers unites believers as one despite their other differences. There is no need to wash over differences in Christianity, since anyone who has passed from the kingdom of death and darkness to the kingdom of light and life is a new creature. Paul, therefore, says that he no longer considers anyone who has believed according to the flesh (i.e., according to worldly distinctions). His or her old humanity, i.e., false humanity, has passed away (2 Cor 5:16-17). Instead, now, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Gal 3:28).

So there is no one humanity according to Scripture. This explains why the world, in all of its various forms of self worship, comes together to oppose orthodox Christianity. It too is united by what divides it from true humanity. It must exalt the self, but the self cannot peacefully be exalted without dethroning the power of the King among his subjects and their shining lights in the world. False humanity needs the dark to convince itself of things that are plainly seen as false in the light. That is, they need it to convince themselves that they are the gods worthy of their own worship they always hoped to be. The light is an annoyance, though tolerated in small doses, to be extinguished if shone too brightly.

No matter how nice an unbeliever may be, no matter what a good citizen he is, no matter how often she attends church, or he sings hymns and wonders about God, he is a gollum. Until he submits his life to God's lordship as his Creator and Redeemer, and joins true humanity, he is a plague upon the world of men. Good to be used as a test for the redeemed. Good to be used as an unwilling means toward the salvation of God's children. But he is not of us, nor should he be confused with us, lest his father, the devil, use him to get a foothold into your life.

Now, unlike Rowdy Roddy Piper, we don't need to run around and kill unbelievers. Our role in their lives is to seek their redemption. It is to speak God's Word to them and allow God to transfer them from one kingdom to the other. We are, after all, agents of life in the world. They may destroy us, but we seek to save them, as we all once were like them. We who have come to know the love of God and the better life of Christ in our role as true humanity know the darkness of false humanity. We know the confusion and "lostness" of it. We have experienced the veil taken away. The glasses have been put on. We can never see the world the same again, nor would we want to. But they don't get it. They're still lost. They're still confused. They're still offended by my talking about them this way. They're still duped into thinking that we're all in the same boat. But we aren't. Our lives are characterized by our pursuit of the love of God through obedience to His Word. Their lives are characterized by their pursuit of the love of self through self gratification and self direction. These two groups are nothing of the same.

Egalitarianism is right about one thing: judging people based on physical attributes or social status is ignorant, but it is of the same ignorance of which it itself partakes when it fails to judge people based on their spiritual attributes. It simply sees no major physical differences to divide over and concludes as ignorantly as those who do. But divine revelation allows us to see the important differences that those without it are incapable of seeing.

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. "And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left." (Matt 25:31-33)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's Extreme, What's Balanced, or What's True?

"That's extreme!" seems to be the end-all phrase to combat any idea or practice we don't really want to think through. If we label it as "extreme" then we can move on and go about our merry lives. But I would argue that Christians should never say that something is extreme as a way to combat an idea. I say this because I think that the practice of doing this is unChristian in itself. It assumes a non-Christian worldview. The opposite of "extreme," of course, is "balanced." We say that people should be "balanced" as a way of skirting out of having to think through a position as well. It's an acceptance of what is without thinking about, or having the ability to think about, what should be.

Michael Horton states:

Anti-intellectualism is also arrogant in its plea for balance. People often cry for balance whenever they do not want to take the time to think through their own point of view. Holding a so-called middle position saves us the hassle of having to actually employ critical skills. Circumventing thought processes, it is a mere act of will that attempts to pick up the slack of our lazy thinking. This plea for balance does not, however, keep us from claiming moral superiority for having the grace, moderation, and sophisticated detachment to stand above and outside the debate. (We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostle's Creed, 12)

I think the problem is more than lazy thinking, however, as people are often lazy thinkers when it benefits them to be so. Hence, lazy thinking is willful.

We live in a world where the presupposition of atheism/agnosticism is everywhere. We have shunned the idea that divine revelation exists to speak into our thoughts and lives. This has caused us to redirect our worship from God to ourselves. Our god is the self, and we worship it through whatever brings most satisfaction to it in the moment. Our pursuits are our idols through which the cult to self is realized. We have turned away from the Creator's words, that we are created to be God's image, and have instead embraced the serpent's words that we are to be "as God."

This is why it is so interesting to hear people condemn or praise anything in our culture. Since there is no revelation to give us a standard of right and wrong, good and evil, we are left with the only standard we have: ourselves. Hence, if I don't like something, or something is outside of my normal experience, it's extreme. If I do like something, and it accords to that with which I am accustomed, it's balanced. Why? Because I'm balanced. I'm the standard of the norm.

Now, in reality, it's the culture that is the standard, since it dominates the self, and keeps it under control by allowing it to believe that it is autonomously evaluating all things, all the while existing as but a marionette of its philosophies of life. This is how the serpent gets the world he wants. His followers are not told to worship him. They are told to exalt themselves as gods. Thus, devil-worship isn't about setting up a shrine to a goat's head and sacrificing virgins to the almighty Satan. It's sacrificing our humanity to him by becoming like him, self-willed and self-exalting.

So extremes are subjective to me. I decide what is normal, and what is normal is what everyone else has decided for me. I am unique, just like everybody else. And that's the thing. When you are the standard, you cannot stand against culture, because you are the sum total of that culture. A "revelationaless" life is an enslaved life, not one of freedom. So whatever my cultural philosophy considers balanced, I consider balanced. Whatever it says is within the bounds of normal, I say is normal.

This is no different in the church today. Much of Christianity has become balanced according to cultural norms. If it hasn't, then it's an extreme form to be avoided. Those people are crazy. They're weird. Why don't they live according to our rules? Why are they always so combatitive toward our way of life? They're so unbalanced.

This is why Christianity has such conflict in the world. A life directed, not by the self and a culture of selves, but by divine revelation will forever be in conflict with culture, even if that culture is Christianized. That's why one will hear these same objections within the church as much as outside of it. Culture moves, but God's Word is immovable. The heavens and the earth will pass away before His words pass away. We can translate His revelation from one culture to the next, but the messages themselves should never be conformed to culture, lest we end up with a "revelationless" religion like everyone else. And that is a danger. The devil is not just moving to draw all of secular culture under him, but to capture the religious culture as well. If the Bible can be judged by the standards of the culture, it will lose it's ability to stand against it. Hence, he, as the god he always wanted to be, can now dictate reality to his subjects. He can have the world as he wants it by convincing us that we want it too. We'll simply have nothing to counter it. It will just seem normal to us. It will seem like the right way to go. It will become the most desirable. The deception will be complete.

Instead, what we need to do is hold up God's Word and ask, What is true? What is good? rather than, What is normal? What is balanced?

More often than not, what people mean by the words "extreme" and "balanced" is misguided anyway. What is extreme is just the logical conclusion of a belief. It's really just the level of commitment one makes to the idea or practice. What is balanced is really just a compromise between positions and practices. Instead, therefore, we need to ask, What is true? and What is good? in order to ascertain what is a wholehearted commitment to truth and what is good, and what is merely an abberation of that truth or practice. But abberation assumes that one knows the truth, and this is something that a self directed person and culture cannot know, since the self has no transcendence, and is left with only preferences given to it by its environment.

So in the end, a "revelationless" person cannot even judge what is abberant, as it cannot comment about what is true and good. It only has preferences. It only has the self as the standard. Hence, it can only judge something to be extreme or balanced in relation to itself. One simply goes too far, not enough, or is in the sphere of what I consider normal (i.e., depending upon how close it is to my preferences). In a world of preferences, good and truth are subjective terms that I apply objectively to everyone. I am the god of my own religion. "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." But this makes me the captain of everyone else's as well, as I will be judging their ideas with my own (which is why atheism/agnosticism often leads to totalitarianism when it takes power).

If something is good and extreme, then it is extremely good. If something is true and extreme, then it is extremely true. Extreme is good as long as you know what good is. Abberation from truth and good are evil, so abberations must be judged according to those standards. The person with divine revelation is capable to comment on the truth of this post. The person who doesn't have it can only comment on whether they like it, whether it resonates with them, whether it's extreme to their own standards, but they cannot say it's true or false, as they have no ability to do so. The sun is unchained. Seven billion of Nietzche's mad men are released into the world.

We will not survive it unless God does exist, and knowing that the world would end in chaos for all to whom He has not given revelation, He has given it to His people. So we savor it night and day. We can now stand against the tide. We can now know what is good and what is true. God is not a cruel deity who leaves His people to destruction. He is a God of love who provides for them the revelation they need to survive a world of wayward gods, false humanity, so that we can still function as His images in the world. And that's a God worth being extreme for.

And You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, all your being, and everything you've got. (Deut 6:5; Mark 12:30)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Fear of the Lord as the Vehicle toward True Life

Have you ever walked into a person's house who has an overly developed concern to child-proof their homes? Pads on the corners of tables, safety plugs in the sockets (that's probably a good one btw), and their kids in some sort of pen that was likely originally constructed for hamsters, these dangerous homes have been transformed into the bouncy house at the carnival. Christianity has been made safe these days as well. Preachers have removed what the Bible considers as the most important component of the Christian life from the pulpit: the fear of God.

They have removed it by speaking of God as a giant grandfather figure in the sky. They have removed it by speaking of Him as your friendly neighborhood therapist, who is always there to counsel you in whatever decisions you choose to make in life. They have presented Him as the fairy godmother, who exists to turn all of your pumpkins into carriages and all of your rags into gowns. But they do not talk about His wrath anymore. They do not talk about hell (when's the last time you heard a message on hell that wasn't meant to undermine it as a horrible place to be feared?) God isn't our judge. He's our buddy. What's there to fear?

One of the ways that preachers have removed the fear of God, however, has been in redefining it. It's not fear. It's respect. Fear just means respect in modern evangelical pulpit fiction. Now that's a sermon I have heard many, many times. But is it right? Is that what the word "fear" means in the Bible? Is that what the "fear of God" is? The answer is, No, it isn't.

There are words that describe respect in the Bible. The words "honor" and "glory" are better fits. They describe an attribution of awe to the majesty and splendor of God. So we are to respect God. There's no doubt about that. But fear is something much different than respect.

Let me explain it this way. Respect is something I choose to give to the lion, as I observe his strength and majestic features, while I am standing outside of the cage. I can also choose to disrespect him. I can make fun of him, and more importantly, I can ignore him. I can just forget about him altogether and go watch the monkeys.
Fear, however, is what I have for the lion when I am inside the cage with him. It is not something I can choose to give, but a recognition of the lion's power over me. I realize that whatever happens, he has the upper hand, as he has all the power. I won't be winning a fight with a lion. Fear focuses my attention toward the lion. It does not allow me to ignore or forget about him. It causes me to be cautious about what moves I make, and how I make them. Fear is a recognition of an authority that is possessed by another, with or without my choice to give it to him, as opposed to respect, which is an authority/attention I choose to give to another.

You see, fear takes away the pretense of my power. It removes the falsehood that I am in control here. It reminds me that I am helpless, and am completely at the mercy of another. It makes me realize my need, my lack. That causes me to seek out help, direction, instruction, from one who has authority. 

So when Proverbs (1:7; 9:10) says that the "fear of God is the beginning of knowledge/wisdom" (i.e., understanding life), it means "fear," not respect, must be one's starting point and presupposition before he pursues other questions in life. If we start in the wrong place, one that does not pay careful attention to God as the authority of truth and good, we will end in the wrong place as well. Our conclusions will be false because our premise is false.

Proverbs tells us that the fear of God leads us to love true knowledge, as opposed to what makes us comfortable (1:29). It gives us a hatred toward evil, which is viewed as a self-willed life that seeks to make sense of life through one's own experiences (8:13; 15:33; 22:4--this is what pride and arrogance are in the Bible, humility/the fear of God being their opposite). It leads to a longer life (10:27; 19:23--which for us is eternal life). It gives us certainty (14:26) and is our source of life that keeps us from being trapped by chaotic ideas, i.e., the cultural philosophies the devil has set in place to destroy us (v. 27). It gives us the motivation to stop doing what is wrong (16:6). More importantly, it gives us the path to know God (2:5). This is in contrast to fearing man (i.e. paying attention to human ideas/seeing man in the place that God should be seen/starting with human authority instead of God's in one's view of life). In fact, the proverb, "there is a way [i.e., an understanding of life and the direction one should go] that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death" is repeated twice in the Book of Proverbs (14:12; 16:25), which means it's being emphasized in the book. The Hebrew literally reads that the a path that seems right to man according to his experience (lit. "that which is before him") leads to "paths (plural) of death." Hence, to get the starting point concerning how we approach life wrong leads to multiple paths to death.

Now, that's just Proverbs. The term appears throughout the Bible, and we are told essentially, therefore, that the promises of God are only for those who fear Him. These promises of understanding life and being saved from darkness and death are only for those who fear YHWH (which is what the translation "Lord" is representing in these texts). Hence, the fear of the Lord is bound up with the Bible as God's revelation, and cannot be attributed to another religion. I can transfer the fear of the lion to the penguin in the cage, but I'm going to be paying attention to the wrong entity, and pay dearly for it.

To sum up, the fear of the Lord is our recognition of His authority over life in general, and over our lives specifically. In other words, it is a God-centered, rather than self-centered (i.e., arrogant) way of thinking. It recognizes that He already has the power over our lives and wields that sword daily. What He has given us the privilege to do is to know and understand life by giving us His Word. Through it, we not only recognize God's authority, but we can carefully and thoughtfully come to a true knowledge of God and ourselves. Our crooked paths are set straight. Our fear for God grows into respect, and respect, love. Hence, contrary to popular opinion, fear of the Lord and love are not opposites. The kind of fear that runs from God, which is not the fear of the Lord, is caste out by the love born from the true fear of the Lord.

So "fear" means "fear," but it is a fear that is a recognition of authority that pays careful attention to what that authority does (or in this case, says as well). I cannot ignore the lion any longer. Once my eyes have been opened, I realize the truth that C. S. Lewis noted years ago: that God is a dangerous lion, but He's also good and worthy to be followed. If our lives are constructed around ourselves, then He will do great damage to them. He is very dangerous. But we cannot God-proof our sermons anymore if we are to remain in the fear of God ourselves. If we are to bring the people back to Him, the fear of the Lord must be made known. If we do not, then we are all doomed to a misunderstood, misdirected, and missed life that was always meant to thrive in a God-centered world, but dies in one that is not. There is no doubt that the Word of God's place in our lives is diminished today, precisely, because we are a fallen people who do not fear the Lord (Rom 3:9-18); but for those of us who claim Christ, there must be a humility to God's Word that follows.

So take off the pads. Take out the safety plugs. And deflate the bouncy house. Because a true human life is not lived until it is lived in the fear and loving presence of God.

Thus says the Lord:  "Heaven [is] My throne,  And earth [is] My footstool. Where [is] the house that you will build Me?  And where [is] the place of My rest? For all those [things] My hand has made,  And all those [things] exist,"  Says the Lord.  "But on this [one] will I look:  On [him] [who] [is] poor and of a contrite spirit,  And who  trembles  at My word. (Isa 66:1-2)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Dumbest Philosophy of Parenting I’ve Ever Heard

We’ve all known that type of parent, the one who wants to be accepted by one of his or her children. The cool parent. The permissive parent. This is the person who takes pride in letting his or her children do whatever they wish. Supposedly, this makes them better adults. In reality, it makes them juvenile delinquents (even when they become adults), as they never learn the option of adulthood through parents who themselves never really grow up.

But there is a spiritual version of the permissive parent who believes that to set spiritual boundaries on beliefs is too restricting, and hence, just desires that his or her child chooses whatever he or she sees as best for him. I call this the hippy philosophy of parenting. Hippies had free love, free lifestyles, and free religion. Of course, in the real world, nothing is for free. My generation (and those after me) paid (and continue to pay) dearly for the hippy philosophy of life. But that is for another post.

What I’m most interested in talking about today is the philosophy of parenting that came out of the 60’s infatuation with postmodern philosophy. In postmodern thought, the truth must be experienced subjectively. It cannot have any boundaries placed upon it by an external authority. Authorities are bad because they all seek to oppress the free spirit of another by imposing control over it. There is no truth that can be known. Such truth is just a made up vehicle for control. It’s the stuff of empires. The free spirit must escape from all external authorities and pursue its own desires in life. You can have like-minded friends who realize this truth (yes, the self defeater is evident), but you can’t trust those who are not (hence, anyone over thirty, or who is not bathed in postmodern indoctrination).

From this comes the philosophy below:

“We don’t impose our religious beliefs upon our children. We just want them to find their own path. We trust that they will do well in life if they just follow their hearts along their own journey. Hence, we want them to be open to a variety of options and choose for themselves.”

Now, there is so much anti-Christian philosophy in that one paragraph that I don’t think I can unpack all of it here, but this idea should definitely never be held by a professed Christian. For one, it assumes that children are not born in the curse, but will be guided by God to their own experience of the truth. Second, it assumes that their minds and hearts are pure enough to recognize God’s guidance versus the devil’s (or just the destructive culture’s from a naturalistic standpoint) even if He did guide them. Third, it assumes that the goal in raising children in a family is to give them freedom to believe and become whatever they wish, since their desires are pure, rather than to exalt and glorify God among wayward sinners (i.e., ourselves and our children) through saturating our lives as parents with His presence through Word and prayer. Hence, showing that our lives, not just our children’s are about God, rather than what we, as wicked people, want to selfishly pursue in life.

But the thing I find most offensive is the idea that the hippy philosophy of parenting somehow gives children greater freedom to choose than saturating one’s home with the Word of God. You see, in the hippy view, that’s forcing religion on your children. It’s brainwashing them, so that they don’t have a choice.

The irony of the hippy philosophy, however, is that it actually is more oppressive and predetermines what children will believe, as opposed to the biblical mandate to saturate one’s home with the Word of God. Why do I say this? Because the person who does not saturate his or her home with the Word of God does nothing to combat the demonic philosophy of the culture. Even if you don’t believe the devil is working hard to indoctrinate your children through cultural philosophies, those cultural philosophies themselves exist to indoctrinate them so that they believe a certain way, and not another. The world is not a neutral place, where you can just pick your beliefs. This may be true of secondary beliefs, but not primary ones (i.e., the ones that govern all other beliefs and actually run your life). The idea that the world is some buffet of ideas that are not already being forced down your children's throats is naïve at best.

In other words, rather than give children a choice, it enslaves them to the culture. It predetermines their fate. They will have no choice now but to believe whatever idea is most desirable within our culture. Right or wrong, it is their sealed fate. They are stuck. This parental philosophy has seen to it that they remain so. Cultural ideas are like the chain that binds us. Why would leaving your children chained to a wall give them a greater choice? Isn’t it obvious that handing them bolt cutters (i.e., that which works contrary to the chain) gives them the choice to live with or without it? The culture will indoctrinate your children through every means possible. If you are not busy saturating your children with biblical truth, the devil is and will be busy saturating them with lies; and if you continue to do nothing about it, you rob them of making a choice. You rob them of their freedom. You ensure their oppression by an external authority that they cannot even choose.

Let me ask you something. Would you let someone put multiple glasses of poison in front of your children and not try and persuade them to drink a glass of water by putting one continually before the others? How is it giving them greater freedom by limiting their options to just the poison?

You see, in the biblical mandate, the devil is working hard at all times to saturate our lives with what is false. Hence, working hard to saturate your life with the Word of God that runs counter to his philosophies, is never oppressive or a brainwashing indoctrination, because the two are always presented. But hippy parenting, ironically, takes out one of these options, so it can be described as nothing but a brainwashing indoctrination of their children.

Nor can it rectify this by just running down different options of thought with the child in the way one reads off a grocery list. Christian beliefs are beliefs that are only fully realized and understood through their transformation of life. Hence, it is only by a lifestyle through which biblical truths are lived out on a daily basis that the option is presented to the child. You can describe Christianity as a foreign religion to your daily living, but if you live like an atheist, then the child is bound to be an atheist. If you are a postmodern relativist, then so shall your child be. In other words, if you live out the philosophies of your culture, then the philosophies of culture is the only choice your child has to live out himself. Christianity, if it is to function as a real choice, must be presented through its totality of beliefs and lifestyle, in the daily presence of God through His Word, in the same way that the devil presents to us all of his cultural philosophies.

Now, of course, no one can make his or her child become a Christian. Children must take what they have been given and choose once they are capable of doing so. Allison and I never asked our children to pray a prayer of salvation or to be baptized. They have all come to us to ask us if they could. My children asked me for a Bible of their own. They choose freely of their own accord, and they will again need to choose as they walk out into the world and their beliefs are tested as either being real or something they chose just because they knew Mom and Dad would be proud.

But that’s the thing. They will get a choice. They’re fates are not sealed by us. The world screams with its many voices into their lives and we try to scream equally as loud. And because of sin, we often are two of the voices of the world’s philosophies ourselves, which makes it all the more important to let God speak through His counter-cultural Word.

So the hippy philosophy of parenting is the dumbest philosophy of parenting I’ve ever heard, not only because it’s filled with false doctrine, a lack of belief of God’s Word on part of the supposed Christian parents, and it’s emphasis on the child over the exaltation of God, but mainly because it accomplishes the exact opposite of what it claims to accomplish. Instead, it leaves children in the dark with no way out, and I can think of nothing more evil than a parent entrusted by God to provide light to his or her child who smothers it in the name of a philosophy in which he or she was brainlessly indoctrinated themselves.

Teaching our children God’s Word will not save them from the philosophies of the world. They must choose to go that direction (and by God’s grace I pray with all of my heart that they do). But I will not be the passive instrument in the hands of the devil of my own children’s destruction. The only way to ensure that I am not is to let God speak anywhere and everywhere, from the rising to the setting of the sun, and allow God to use me as much, if not more so, of an instrument in their salvation as the devil seeks to use me in their damnation. To do anything less, God forbid, is to be the destroyer of our own children. May the hippy philosophy of life never be confused as a philosophy of good parenting. And whether we eat or drink, or in whatever we do, may we glorify God in the hope that our children will one day do the same.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord [is] one! "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:5–9)