Obama supporter has buyer’s remorse over gender policy

Justin Giboney has a remarkable opinion piece at Christianity Today that I missed at the end of May. Giboney is an ardent supporter of President Obama, but he says that it was a mistake not to oppose President Obama’s views on transgenderism. Here’s an excerpt:

We happily manned the front lines as Obama fought for the poor and underserved. We held our noses when he championed policy contrary to our beliefs. The unspoken, but understood call was to stand down lest we undermine our brother and empower his enemies. And stand down we did, submitting to the Obama Effect.

When Louie Giglio “withdrew” from events in Washington for having the audacity to question the orthodoxy of popular culture, we bit our tongues. When pastors in Houston had their sermons subpoenaed by the mayor, we didn’t demand that our President weigh in and condemn this gross injustice. Instead, we watched tainted and tone-deaf conservatives clumsily fight battles that belonged to us.

By neglecting to speak up on issues that support human flourishing, we allowed for a false dichotomy between traditional morals and social justice. The culmination of this failure enabled a gender identity policy that is in direct conflict with the truth about biology and gender (Matt. 19:4). Moral implications aside, the policy is not sound. In haste, no one prepared school leaders for the administration of this novel, and at times ambiguous, policy. Can you imagine the government taking funding from our children’s education based on a directive that few fully understand?

Make no mistake, Christians should be the first to affirm the dignity of our transgender brothers and sisters and rail against any mistreatment. That said, the idea that one could define one’s own gender would’ve sounded absurd just three years ago. Now we’re expected to be comfortable with its conclusions. What’s more, we’re supposed to treat this continuation of the sexual revolution as the rightful heir of the civil rights movement.

Read the rest here.

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Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” -Ephesians 4:1-3

“Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” -Philippians 4:5

Obviously, we are all rightly grieved and horrified by the events of the last three days. I know I am. It feels like our nation is coming apart at the seams, and there is much sorrow and bewilderment. Everyone is on edge. Emotions are frayed. And it is easy for our outrage to be on a hair-trigger right now.

Can I make a suggestion for one small way Christians might bear witness in this moment? Let us forbear with one another. We are all emotional. Conditions are ripe for someone to say something wrong or unwise and unthoughtful online or at work or wherever. Conditions are also ripe for an innocent statement about recent events to be misunderstood or interpreted in the worst possible light. Of course, there is an appropriate way to oppose and confront insensitivity. We should all be slow to speak (James 1:19). But we might also simply need to forbear with one another a little bit. If we love our neighbor, it might be wise not to take into account every wrong suffered by rash statements (1 Cor. 13:5). We don’t have to respond to every provocation.

I tread lightly here. I don’t want to shut down all discussion or reasonable disagreement. And I’m sure I’m not batting a thousand in this area either. I’m just saying that we could cut each other a little slack right now. For what it’s worth.

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It is risky to pray for justice, but we should do it anyway.

I’m thinking about Habakkuk today, an Old Testament prophet who had the audacity to ask God for justice. Habakkuk took a long hard look at systemic injustice in Israel—social division, violence, oppression. His depiction of the nation is one of total moral and social upheaval: “The law is ignored and justice is never upheld” (Hab. 1:4). Because justice has become so “perverted,” Habakkuk cries out to Yahweh for help.

If Habakkuk teaches us anything, he teaches us that it is good and right to pray for justice. But he also teaches us something else. Praying for justice is risky precisely because God might answer our prayer. Habakkuk didn’t realize just how broken the nation was and just how holy God is. As a result, he is surprised when God tells him that the entire nation would be implicated in God’s judgment on evil. It wasn’t a narrow group of sinners alone who would taste the coming judgment. The nation had to face a reckoning.

Habakkuk complains about this and wonders how such a judgment can be just. In response, God informs him, “The LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before him” (Hab. 3:20). This appears to be God’s way of saying that no one has a right to question God’s just judgment—not even the prophet. God is holy. We are not. Put your hand over your mouth if you feel tempted to dispute that.

When we pray for justice—and we must!—we have to realize that we are in the place of Habakkuk. We may be implicated in the justice we pray for in ways we haven’t allowed ourselves to consider. Shudder.

I am reminded of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address in which he recognizes that both sides of the Civil War, North and South, believed in the justice of their cause and prayed to the same God for relief. And yet Lincoln also realized that the war itself was a judgment on both North and South for their sins:

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Let us pray for justice. And let us do it with eyes wide open to the fact that the one praying may be implicated in ways he never imagined. And when justice rolls down like a mighty stream, let us humble ourselves and say, “Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins?” (Lam. 3:39). “The LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before him” (Hab. 3:20). “The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9).

So with tears in my eyes and a hand over my mouth, I am praying with Habakkuk today: “LORD, I have heard the report about Thee and I fear. O LORD, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

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Ware, Grudem, Sanders, Erickson, Giles to come together to talk about the Trinity

A draft of the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society has been released. As many of you know, the theme of this year’s conference is “The Trinity,” which is such a smiling providence given the heat of current controversy. I won’t summarize the whole program here, but I will say that it looks really good. Among the highlights, there will be a parallel session featuring Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, Millard Erickson, and Kevin Giles:

  • Millard J. Erickson, “Language, Logic, and Trinity: An Analysis of Recent Subordination Arguments”
  • Bruce A Ware, “The Nature of the Priority of the Father within the Trinity: Biblical Basis and Importance”
  • Wayne Grudem, “Why a Denial of the Son’s Eternal Submission Threatens both the Trinity and the Bible”
  • Kevin Giles, “The Book, One God in Three Persons, a Critical Review”

The Plenary addresses will feature:

  • Fred Sanders, “Evangelical Trinitarianism and the Unity of the Theological Disciplines”
  • Gerald R. McDermott, “How the Trinity Should Govern Our Approach to World Religions”
  • Scott R. Swain, “The Bible and the Trinity in Recent Thought: Review, Analysis, and Constructive Proposal”

There will also be presentations on the Trinity by Kevin Vanhoozer, Richard Lints, Stephen Dempster among others. As I said, this is apparently a draft of the program, and it is not yet final. But it looks to be a pretty interesting meeting in San Antonio this November.

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The Golden Rule of Theological Polemics

The video below is not new, but it is relevant. Among the profitable things in it, these men remind us how the ninth commandment must inform theological polemics. “You shall not bear false witness” means that you must represent your opponent’s view accurately. It also means that you must not confuse your opponent’s view with an alleged entailment of his view. You can warn about a potential entailment of his view, but you cannot legitimately accuse your opponent of holding the alleged entailment if he explicitly rejects it. Continue Reading →

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When free men shall stand…

It is hard to imagine that July 4, 1776 was anything but bittersweet for the men who signed the Declaration. They knew the principles they were standing for, and they knew what it would cost them to stand: “With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” It would cost them all of that and more.

On July 4, 2016, two-hundred and forty years hence, we find ourselves at another bittersweet moment. Our nation desperately needs leaders and statesmen to stand for principle and to be willing to do so at great personal cost. Where are those leaders? Continue Reading →

A showstopper at the Lincoln Memorial

A couple of weeks ago, tourist G. Star Swain belted out an impromptu performance of the national anthem at the Lincoln Memorial. Bottom line. She can flat out sing. And this is one of those renditions that gives you goose bumps. Her friend videoed the whole thing, and it has now gone viral. It has even been covered on news broadcasts by more than one network. Watch the performance above. See the coverage below. Continue Reading →

Supreme Court refuses to defend religious liberty for pharmacists

Last week, I was at a meeting hosted by The Alliance Defending Freedom. There I was introduced to a Christian family who was ordered by the State of Washington to sell abortion-inducing drugs in their family-owned pharmacy (see their story above). This family and two other pharmacists believe that killing unborn children is wrong, and so they sued the state for relief.

In 2012, a federal court ruled that the law violated the free exercise clause of the first amendment and that the law was “riddled with exemptions for secular conduct, but contain no such exemptions for identical religiously-motivated conduct.”

In 2015, however, a federal appeals court overruled and said that the pharmacists and family must violate their consciences in order to do business in Washington State. The family and the pharmacists appealed their case to the Supreme Court.

This morning, the Supreme Court denied to hear their appeal. It means that the lower court ruling stands and that they cannot do business in Washington State unless they are willing to violate their religious beliefs.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent against the Supreme Court’s decision, and he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. You need to read this excerpt from the dissent:

“This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern. The Stormans family owns Ralph’s Thriftway, a local grocery store and pharmacy in Olympia, Washington. Devout Christians, the Stormans seek to run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs…. Ralph’s has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.” [underline mine]

The fortunes of religious liberty are waning in our country right now. The notion has been diminishing in the popular consciousness, and now the Supreme Court is declining to defend our first freedom as well. Alito is right, this is a “cause for great concern.” If the state can ignore the first amendment and coerce these Christians to violate their conscience, then the state can do anything.

Pope Francis says he agrees with Martin Luther about justification

It was about five hundred years ago that the Roman Catholic church excommunicated Martin Luther for the teachings that led to the Protestant Reformation. Chief among these teachings was the idea that justification is by faith alone (sola fide). 

That is why it is baffling to read Pope Francis’s recent remarks about Luther. In a recent interview, a reporter asked the Pope if he might consider lifting Martin Luther’s excommunication. While the Pope did not offer to remove his excommunication, he did have some rather remarkable words. There is one particular paragraph worth highlighting:

I think that the intentions of Martin Luther were not mistaken. He was a reformer. Perhaps some methods were not correct. But in that time, if we read the story of the Pastor, a German Lutheran who then converted when he saw reality – he became Catholic – in that time, the Church was not exactly a model to imitate. There was corruption in the Church, there was worldliness, attachment to money, to power…and this he protested. Then he was intelligent and took some steps forward justifying, and because he did this. And today Lutherans and Catholics, Protestants, all of us agree on the doctrine of justification. On this point, which is very important, he did not err. He made a medicine for the Church…

This is a rather curious statement. Francis argues that Lutherans, Catholics, and Protestants all “agree on the doctrine of justification.” These words seem to suggest that the main soteriological difference between Protestants and Catholics is no longer an issue.

I have no idea what the Pope is talking about here. It is possible that The Joint Declaration on Justification  is the background for this statement. But that statement only represented rapproachment with a particular group of liberal Lutherans. It did not establish unity with all Lutherans, much less Protestants in general. Protestants have not laid aside sola fide, and the Roman Catholic church has not laid aside its anathema of sola fide. Yes, the issues are complex, but the divisions among the faithful are obvious and ongoing.

If anyone wants to offer an explanation for the Pope’s statement, I welcome it. At first blush, it looks like he’s saying that the Reformation was no big deal after all and that the Roman Catholic church now accepts many of Luther’s insights. But I don’t think that is what is going on here. So what is going on here?

A Meditation on Psalm 19

I thank You for this piece of sky
Which often I’ve let fly right by
Without a single thought from whence
It came or by it what is meant.
For day to day it pours forth speech
In words within my soul’s short reach.
And night to night its knowledge pours
Of You Who reigns forevermore.
Its line has gone through all the earth
To tell Your glory and Your worth. Continue Reading →

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