Archive | Christianity

The disappearing “middleground” and the coming conflict

David Gushee has written a column for Religion News Service arguing that the “middleground” is disappearing on LGBT rights. He writes:

Middle ground is disappearing on the question of whether LGBT persons should be treated as full equals, without any discrimination in society — and on the related question of whether religious institutions should be allowed to continue discriminating due to their doctrinal beliefs.

It turns out that you are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it, and your answer will at some point be revealed. This is true both for individuals and for institutions.

Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.

Gushee is no doubt right about this. Those pushing for LGBT “rights” do not mean to offer any accommodation whatsoever to those of us who dissent from the moral revolution overtaking the West. All dissent must be eliminated, and those who continue to defy the revolution must be marginalized as morally retrograde bigots. There will be no hiding. No compromises. Everyone will eventually be smoked-out. And those who resist will be crushed. That is their aim. Continue Reading →

Marrying Creed and Conduct

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” -2 Timothy 3:16 

To say that scripture is “profitable” has nothing to do with money. It simply means that scripture is useful, beneficial, or advantageous toward a certain end. In this case, Paul says that scripture is beneficial for four things: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. John Stott suggests that these four are divided into two groups: creed and conduct.

Paul now goes on to show that the profit of Scripture relates to both creed and conduct (16b, 17). The false teachers divorced them; we must marry them. The NEB expresses the matter clearly. As for our creed, Scripture is profitable ‘for teaching the truth and refuting error’. As for our conduct, it is profitable ‘for reformation of manners and discipline in right living’. In each pair the negative and positive counterparts are combined. Do we hope, either in our own lives or in our teaching ministry, to overcome error and grow in truth, to overcome evil and grow in holiness? Then it is to Scripture that we must primarily turn, for Scripture is ‘profitable’ for these things.

John Stott, The Message of 2 Timothy, p. 103

Yes, marry them indeed. Every day. Every moment.

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Saving Christian Colleges from Annihilation by the State

In case you haven’t heard, the California state legislature is poised to pass a bill that would effectively close down Christian colleges in California. The long and short of it is this. There is bill in California that would deny federal funds to any college or university that maintains faithfulness to what the Bible teaches about sexuality. The ERLC released a statement today opposing the bill and describing its harms:

Senate Bill 1146 results in its own form of discrimination by stigmatizing and coercively punishing religious beliefs that disagree on contested matters related to human sexuality. If SB 1146 were to pass, it would deny students’ ability to participate in state grant programs—programs that exist to help low-income students, and which are overwhelmingly used by racial minorities—at schools that are found in violation of the bill. Moreover, it would severely restrict the ability of religious education institutions to set expectations of belief and conduct that align with the institution’s religious tenets.

The statement statement requests the California state legislature to drop the bill, and the request is signed by a number of religious leaders from across the country. Among other things, the statement says this: Continue Reading →

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If pedophilia is a sexual orientation, now what?

I have written in this space before about the idea that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, that it’s just another element of human sexual diversity not to be condemned but understood and sympathized with. We are now at the next stage of normalization. Indeed, the DSM-V already recognizes pedophilia as a sexual orientation (p. 698). But now we have a full-length academic book arguing the same: Pedophilia and Adult-Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis, by Stephen Kershnar.

In this book, Kershnar questions whether pedophilia should be considered a mental disorder and/or morally wrong. His argument is that it can only be considered a mental disorder if and only if two conditions are met: (1) if the condition causes harm and (2) if the harm results from a dysfunction in a mental mechanism. Kershnar contends that pedophilia is a “natural function” with an “evolutionary explanation.” Thus it does not meet the second criterion. He further argues that pedophilia doesn’t harm the pedophile and that it does not necessarily harm a “willing” child. So pedophilia doesn’t clearly violate the first criterion either (pp. xviii-xix). Continue Reading →

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How to pray for God’s favor

This morning, I’ve been pondering and praying the words of Moses in Exodus 33:13:

“If I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight.” -Exodus 33:13

Notice three crucial things about this prayer, each of which illuminate how we ought to pray as well.

1. The Basis: Even though the sentence begins with “If I have found favor,” God’s favor toward Moses is not in question. We know that because God has already told Moses that his favor rests on him (v. 12), and God will tell him again “you have found favor in my sight” (v. 17). God’s gracious disposition toward Moses is not in question, and so the basis for Moses’ request is God’s free grace.

2. The Request: Moses asks to know God’s “ways.” God’s “ways” refer to God’s behavior and manner of conduct. It is God’s behavior and action revealed in history. Moses has been witness to God’s “ways” in this sense, and now he’s asking to know more of God’s ways. Why? Because knowing God’s ways equals knowing God. “Let me know Your ways that I may know You.” God’s works do not deceive us. They speak truthfully about who God really is. Moses wants to know more of God’s ways because Moses wants to know God.

3. The Purpose: Moses says the purpose of the prayer is to “find favor” with God. This is profound. Moses has already cited God’s gracious favor as the basis for his prayer. Now he’s citing it as the goal of his prayer as well. The logic goes like this. Grace leads to knowing God’s ways. Knowing God’s ways leads to knowing God. Knowing God leads to more grace. The entire enterprise is framed by grace.

What does all of this mean? What would it mean for us to pray a similar prayer? It means that we approach God on the basis of his gracious favor toward us. His drawing near to us precedes and grounds our drawing near to him (John 6:65; 1 John 4:19). 

Also, it means that when we seek to know God’s “ways,” we are seeking to know how God has revealed himself in history. That revelation is contained for us in scripture. To know God’s ways in scripture is to know God as he truly is. Scripture never lies to us on this account. On the contrary, it gives us everything we need for life and godlines (2 Peter 1:3). 

Finally, it means that God’s revelation is a means of grace for us. The purpose of seeing God is to experience his favor. His favor is both the basis and the goal of such prayer. And knowing God is the essence of experiencing God’s favor. 

Jesus said it this way, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). We pray from God’s favor  for God’s favor, and we can do this because of Christ’s death and resurrection for sinners. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

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Jonathan Edwards on the “Head of the Trinity”

Last week, I noted Scott Swain’s chapter about the Son’s willing submission to the Father within the covenant of redemption. I’ve been doing some further reading on this, and it turns out that intratrinitarian relations with respect to the pactum have been a perennial discussion among reformed divines.

For example, Jonathan Edwards has a fascinating essay in his “Miscellanies” about “The Economy of the Trinity and Covenant of Redemption.” The entire thing is about 6,300 words, but it is worth the effort to read it if you have the time.

Edwards argues that the Father is the “head of the Trinity.” He never cites 1 Corinthians 11:3 explicitly, but I assume that is the source for his “headship” language. In any case, Edwards contends that the Father’s headship within the Trinity is prior to the pactum. The Father’s headship in no way implies an inferiority of nature in the Son or Spirit. Rather, the Father’s headship is a part of the economy of relations within the Trinity in eternity past prior to the pactum. In Edwards’s own words: Continue Reading →

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Character matters in public leadership

This morning I was thinking about our current political moment and about the nation’s indiffernce to moral character in public leadership. I was reminded of a short essay that John Piper wrote nearly twenty years ago during the impeachment scandal. The essay was such a beacon of prophetic moral clarity then. I think it still is now. And it is relevant to our current moment. 

Piper gives six reasons why he believed that the President of the United States should resign. Each reason has to do with moral character and how the lack of it can make a man unfit for office. Piper concludes with this:

 The president should have known that the stakes of his moral life are this high, and added that to his disincentive to gratify himself at the expense of the nation. This reckless, foolish and faithless behavior unfits a man to be a world leader in this moral context.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost twenty years since this was written, but it is nonetheless relevant. When all of this was unfolding, the President’s approval rating among the American people remained very high, and of course he never resigned. The nation decided that these moral failings didn’t matter. I guess it should be no surprise that so many Americans have decided that such failings do not matter now either.

Our current political alternatives didn’t arise ex nihilo. There’s a long backstory. The culture we make is the culture we must live in. And it is an inescapable conclusion that our alterntives are to some extent a reflection of us as a people. 

And that is why it is all the more important for Christians to be salt and light. 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16

“Walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” -Ephesians 5:8-11 

Our job isn’t to sit on the side cursing the darkness. We are light. We bear witness to a kingdom that is not of this world—to a Redeemer King who even now is seated at the right hand of God and who will appear again in judgment. This reality has implications for all of life, including the stewardship He’s given us as citizens of a democratic republic. 

Our alternatives may be a reflection of our culture, but Christians cannot give the impression that they are a faithful representation of us or of the Kingdom we represent. Clarity on this point may be difficult, but it is nonetheless necessary. To obscure this point is to cover up everything that matters. And that we cannot do.

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Pepperdine asks to have its Title IX exemption removed

This is fairly significant news reported by The Huffington Post. Pepperdine University has asked to have its Title IX exemption removed. From the report:

Passed in 1972, Title IX “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.” An educational institution that is “controlled by a religious organization” may apply for a Title IX exemption if it “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.” Pepperdine had originally filed a request for a Title IX exemption in 1976 that was later granted in 1985. The request allowed Pepperdine to take disciplinary action against those who were found “to be involved in heterosexual relationships outside the holy union of wedlock or in homosexual relationships” as well as exclude women from various activities.
Continue Reading →

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“Morning Joe” says Trump is not on the side of social conservatives

I don’t think we can overstate the significance of Peter Thiel’s speech at the RNC on Thursday night. It’s not just that Thiel spoke nor that he said what he said. What was stunning was that the GOP delegates stood to their feet and cheered. No matter where you are in the culture wars, all sides can acknowledge that this represents a sea change for the Republican party.

On Friday morning, the “Morning Joe” crew commented on Thiel’s reception by the GOP delegates. The panel rightly comprehended the significance of it. But what interested me about their discussion is something that Joe remarked on near the end of the video above. Joe directly addresses social conservatives and evangelical Christians and says something that should have been obvious but may not be to some:

It really speaks to Donald Trump’s worldview that he hasn’t really shown during the primary campaign… Social conservatives, if Trump is elected, duck because he’s not on your side on these issues. It’s not like this is the first time we’ve been saying that. He does not care. He has a more open view, and certainly he’s more in line at least with millennial voters and with an awful lot of voters. So that wasn’t a real surprise to any of us that know Donald. It may be a surprise, though, to Jerry Falwell Juniors that go out and say certain things…

It is clear what Joe means by “say certain things.” Throughout the primary season, certain evangelicals have declared Trump to be a born-again Christian or at least to be one who bears the fruit of being a Christian. With that, they have been assuring voters that Trump will take up the causes that evangelicals care most about.

Joe is essentially saying that such a view of Trump is badly mistaken. Trump doesn’t care about sanctity of life, marriage, or religious liberty. He just doesn’t. That is not who he is, although he’d like enough evangelicals to think that he is so that he can get their votes. Is that cynical? You bet. And it also happens to be the sad truth about this candidate.

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