Archive | Christianity

The Strangest Thing about the Christian Faith

The strangest thing about the Christian faith is not our views on sexuality or politics. Those things are not even our most controversial of claims. The strangest thing about us is what the apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

3 that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

To be sure, that Jesus died is not the controversial part. Even unbelieving pagans agree with the death of Jesus as an historical fact. They don’t, however, agree with the meaning of his death—that it was a vicarious sacrifice “for our sins” to reconcile us to God. But they do agree that he was dead and buried. No great dispute there. Continue Reading →

An Easter Hymn

O Jesus, Savior of my life,
My hope, my joy, my sacrifice,
I’ve searched and found no other one
Who loves me more than you have done.

So I denounce my lingering sin
Whose power You have broke within
My ever weak and faithless frame.
Its vigor’s crushed in Jesus name.

For your death did at once proclaim,
The Father’s glory and my shame.
And you did seize my cup of guilt
And drank all that the chalice spilled.

No condemnation now I dread
Because you went for me instead
To bear the curse and wrath and rage,
To pay the debt I would have paid.

Yet your work finished not with death,
Nor with your final murdered breath.
For death’s blows could not ever quell
The One whose life is in Himself.

Your passion broke forth full with life,
And foiled the adversary’s wiles.
You broke the chains, destroyed the sting
With which death had afflicted me.

O Savior, who died in my stead,
You firstborn from among the dead,
O Savior, you who saved my life,
Will take me whole to paradise.

So on this resurrection day
I lift my voice with all the saints
And sing with all my ransomed might
Of You, the Savior of my life!

Death, Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

———-
Poem: “Death, Be Not Proud” (Holy Sonnet 10), by John Donne

Where I think the Gerson essay goes off track

Michael Gerson has two essays this week excoriating evangelicals for their support of President Trump—one long piece in The Atlantic and another shorter piece in The Washington Post. His basic thesis is that evangelical Trump supporters have discredited their Christian witness. Indeed, they have abandoned it altogether. In the longer piece for The Atlantic, Gerson writes:

The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness…

How did something so important and admirable become so disgraced?

Gerson follows this with a deep dive into the history of North American evangelicalism, with a special emphasis on all of its triumphs and failures over the years. He writes,

It is the story of how an influential and culturally confident religious movement became a marginalized and anxious minority seeking political protection under the wing of a man such as Trump, the least traditionally Christian figure—in temperament, behavior, and evident belief—to assume the presidency in living memory.

I won’t attempt to sketch the whole essay here. I simply encourage you to read it.

I am sympathetic with much of what Gerson writes in this essay. In fact, I’m fairly certain that we share the same point of view about the current president and his moral corruption. Having said that, I think Gerson’s essay is problematic for several reasons. Continue Reading →

Intersectionality as Religion… It’s infecting evangelicals too.

David French argues that Intersectionality is not merely an ideology but a religion. I think he is right about this. French writes:

It was foolish for anyone to believe that a less Christian America would be a less religious America. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, God “put eternity in man’s heart.” Traditional Christianity and Judaism aren’t just being removed from American life; they’re being replaced. The more passive person often fills his heart with the saccharine sweetness of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The angry activist often stokes the burning fires of intersectionality. And when commitment collides with confusion, commitment tends to win. [emphasis mine]

If you are not familiar with intersectionality, you need to be.1 It is all the rage not only on college campuses but also increasingly in popular culture. Many people become adherents without even knowing they are doing so. They simply absorb the norms of this new brand of identity politics from the ambient culture.

French argues that intersectionality has all the hallmarks of a religion. Its doctrine is the sacralization of marginalized groups (e.g. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Queer, Racial Minorities, Women, etc.). Its original sin is “privilege.” Its conversion experience is called becoming “woke.” Its piety is called “allyship.” Adherents must celebrate the sanctity of experience and may never question the moral authority of the marginalized. Any departure from these tenets is treated as heresy, and the heretics are banished.

French observes that intersectionality is becoming so influential that it even “haunts” those liberals who have not fully bought in to the ideology. He writes:

Even those who aren’t full-on adherents have begun to adopt various intersectional habits, such as adjusting their language, deferring to experiential authority, and questioning the value of free speech. Just as southern Americans are more prone to “God talk” regardless of personal religiosity, increasing numbers of blue Americans sound more woke with each passing day.

I think that French is right about this, but I would argue that the influence of intersectionality is not merely a problem among secular liberals. I have observed that many evangelical Christians are beginning to adopt intersectional habits as well. Many evangelicals adjust their language and defer to experiential authority in order not to offend the dogmas of intersectionality. These habits are deeply antithetical to the Christian faith, and yet very few seem to have noticed that yet.

The influence of intersectionality is not the merely the experience of blue America. It’s everywhere now. And Christians need to be vigilant over their own habits of thinking and expression lest they be taken-in by this destructive error.

—————

1 See my previous posts on intersectionality here and here. For a primer on intersectionality, I recommend Joe Carter’s article “What Christians Should Know about Intersectionality.” Andrew Sullivan offers a powerful critique of intersectionality from a secular perspective in “Is Intersectionality a Religion.” If you want to take a deep-dive into some actual intersectional theory, I recommend Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seminal essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989, no. 1 (1989): 139-67. For a popular introduction to Crenshaw’s theory, see her recent TED Talk, “The urgency of intersectionality.”

Was the apostle Paul married? Yes, he was. Here’s how we know.

In my sermon this morning at Kenwood Baptist Church, I made the case that the Apostle Paul was not always single but was once married. This observation emerges from Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. You can download the full sermon here or listen below.


Here’s how we know that Paul was once married. Paul writes:

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.

If we want to understand how this verse applies to us, we need first of all to whom it is addressed. Your English versions say that Paul addresses “the unmarried and the widows.” It’s clear what Paul means by “widows.” He’s referring to any woman who was once married but whose husband has died. But to whom is Paul referring when he says “the unmarried”? Continue Reading →

NBC News article accuses Billy Graham of leaving a “painful legacy for LGBTQ people.”

NBC News has an article chronicling Billy Graham’s “painful legacy” for LGBT people. Here’s the lede:

Evangelicals across the country are mourning the death of Billy Graham, an influential preacher who died in his home in Montreat, North Carolina, on Wednesday. But while some are celebrating his legacy, others are grappling with the lasting damage his actions have done to their communities.

Over the course of Graham’s 99 years of life, he reached millions of Christians around the world and had an outsized impact on the national political landscape. For many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, however, Graham was a crusader against them, one whose efforts shaped the religious right into an anti-LGBTQ political force.

I guess coverage like this shouldn’t be surprising anymore. Increasingly in popular media, moral virtue always boils down to a person’s embrace (or not) of homosexual immorality and transgenderism. Those who embrace them are the good guys, and those who do not are the bad guys. Even Billy Graham—who only died on Wednesday—will not be spared from this censure. He was on the wrong side homosexuality, therefore, he was a bad guy. At least, that is how the moral calculus goes in articles like the one above. Continue Reading →

It’s not conversion therapy; it’s just conversion.

Last week, Jackie-Hill Perry spoke on the campus of Harvard University for a campus student group called Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA). For those unfamiliar with Jackie-Hill Perry, she’s a poet and a Christian who was converted to Christ out of lesbianism. She is courageous, bold, and unambiguous about the gospel and what it requires of us.

Word got out on Harvard’s campus about the event, and a group of students and professors organized a protest. They demanded that the event be cancelled. When it wasn’t cancelled, some of them showed up to the event and heckled Perry from the crowd. The ruckus among protestors began days before the event. Protestors accused Perry of being “homophobic” and claimed that “she condones conversion therapy, a discredited practice meant to change a person’s sexual identity or orientation,” according to the Harvard Crimson.

Both of these claims bear false witness against Perry. She is neither homophobic, nor does she support so-called “conversion therapy.” It’s not “conversion therapy” that she supports. It’s just conversion. In other words, she believes what Christians have always believed—that faith in Christ leads to a conversion of one’s life. It’s what Jesus spoke about in John 3 when he told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3-5). Conversion is a transformation from death to life accomplished by the Holy Spirit in every Christian. It’s not therapy. It’s resurrection from the dead (Eph. 2:4-5). This conversion isn’t just for gay sinners. It’s for all sinners—gay, straight, or otherwise.

To confuse this conversion with “conversion therapy” is not only misleading, it also gives ammunition to critics who wish to paint biblical Christianity in the worst possible light. Those critics wish not only to say that the Bible is wrong but that it is harmful to gay people. They want to shame anyone who publicly identifies with Jesus’ teaching about sexuality. Just last week, gay-activist Matthew Vines publicly criticized Beth Moore for daring to tweet words of encouragement to Jackie-Hill Perry after the opposition at Harvard (although note this clarification from Vines):

Vines and those like him are accusing Christians of causing the deaths of gay people. He not only rejects the Bible’s prohibition on same-sex immorality, but he also argues that anyone who affirms the Bible’s teaching harms gay people and causes them to take their own lives. Vines is not the only one arguing like this. It is the lie being perpetrated against the faithful far and wide. And it is certainly the lie cast at Jackie-Hill Perry last week at Harvard.

In light of this, Christians need to be ready. We need to be ready to love our enemies. We need to be ready to bear faithful witness even though we know the enemies of the faith are going to bear false witness against us. We also need to pray for Jackie-Hill Perry and those like her who are bearing witness  in the face of vicious opposition.

This kind of opposition is not a new thing in the world, but it is something that we perhaps have not experienced in our culture to this degree until now. In any case, we need to be ready because God is in the business of turning enemies of the faith into friends of Jesus. That is what he did for Saul of Tarsus. That is what he did for Jackie-Hill Perry. That is what he did for me. And that is what he can do for anyone—including the ones jeering at Perry’s witness on Harvard’s campus.

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