Monthly Archives: February 2010

How ought brothers in Christ disagree?

I was asked a couple of questions recently regarding unity and how I believe we ought to pursue it in regards to the Church of Christ. Since these questions cut to the heart of many of the struggles that occur in the body of Christ (unfortunately, often in the name of Christ) I figured I’d share them here. Enjoy!

“Do you affirm that unity is not to come at the expense of truth?”

I think this is a red herring as people can disagree on various theological points and still remain united by their commitment to Christ. Further, I find the very question here to be an implicit concession of my point above regarding the Calvinist tendency to treat the ideological position as of primary importance (something, I might add, which is also carried over into too many Churches) rather than our common commitment to Christ.

In other words, you are not a sum of your ideas and your value is not derived by adding up all of your ideas and subtracting the bad ones.

Our commitment to Christ and each other IN Christ is not predicated on our possession of right doctrine.

“Do you affirm that we can disagree and yet have unity?”

Are you asking if we can disagree and still remained united in our commitment to Christ? If so the sure, I don’t see why not. That is, as long as you DO place your commitment to our common Lord and Saviour as of primary importance.

Before you stroke out at my above statements or attempt to reply with the oft-used but seldom-understood refrain of “postmodernist!” let me hasten to add that I’m not saying that objective truth doesn’t exist or matter or that we ought not to vigorously state and defend our respective theologies.

All I’m saying is that past the very basic confessional creed laid out in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (also captured in the ΙΧΘΥΣ acrostic) we have no reason to attempt and throw others out of a body and bride that is not our own.

In regard to camps, I try very hard not to have one so I find your question regarding “my camp” to be pretty spurious at best. If you are asking if there are non-calvinists who have acted poorly, then my answer would have to be yes. Even I have failed to attain to the ideal of unity Christ commanded us to uphold. However the beauty of the Christian message is redemption so my continued hope (no matter how dismal or unattainable it may seem at times) is that we would stop stabbing each other in the back (which includes trying to throw each other out of the Body of Christ) and work towards what Jesus told us would be a sign to the nations that He was sent into the world (what Schaeffer called “the final apologetic”).

In our search for unity, we need to give up the common refrain of “well you are coming from a philosophical position whereas I am coming from a _Biblical_ position” argument. If we can agree to forgo such infantile arguments or lines of thought then, and only then, will our conversations and debates become more fruitful than a mud slinging competition.


Dating, what if we have it all wrong?

[HT The Ruth Institute]

What if our culture’s assumption that “freely chosen relationships” is not true?

We’ve long held in our culture that arranged marriages are inherently evil for depriving couples of the freedom to choose their (supposedly) life-long mates. However, what if we discovered that instead of love being diminished by the removal of the prospective spouses’ free choice of whom to wed, we discovered that love is actually increased?

Sounds like an oxymoron, huh? But a recent article discussing the failings of how our criteria of freely choosing mates based purely on our chemical highs (which we mistakenly label “love”) has some very interesting tidbits, including:

Imagine a dating world turned on its head, in which people were not given the freedom to opt into or out of a relationship — such as a culture that practices arranged marriages. What researchers have found will be shocking to Westerners weaned on the idea of romantic love.

According to a 1982 study by two Indian researchers, the level of self-reported love in arranged marriages increased over time until they surpassed the level of self-reported love in marriages that were freely chosen. Incredible as it sounds, people with a very limited say in choosing their own spouses eventually became happier with their relationships than people with the freedom to choose anyone they wanted.

This really shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially Christians, since marriage ought to serve as institutional guide-rails for fledgling relationships. Offering clearly defined roles for both spouses along with clear standards of what is and is not acceptable. Meaning infidelity is scorned and unconditional love is praised among other traits.

I only hope I can get these ideas across to my children before they reach the age they decide to start dating…


On proposition 8

I’ve been thinking about the recent court case in California to repeal Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage ((Actually, it was really more a positive affirmation of what marriage has been understood to be for centuries due to the provocation of the radical and aggressive agenda of the GLBT movement.)) and I’ve come up with a few questions for the GLBT community.

I am curious to know why the GLBT community thinks this is immoral and not fair that the citizens of California voted overwhelmingly to include specific language (12 words to be precise) into their state’s constitution which concretely defines marriage to be between a man and a woman.

I wonder where they derive their ethical standards for fairness and morality.

I can easily see where the civil rights movement grounded their campaign that all men are created equal specifically in a Christian world view. Essentially, they believed (rightly in my opinion) that there was a natural law that superseded the government’s laws. This case in CA, and the stubborn refusal to accept defeat by the GLBT community, raises a very precarious question; Where do they ground their objections and why are we morally obligated to obey such a standard?

However I fail to see how members of the GLBT community are being devalued as human beings for being denied the imaginary “right” they never had1. I also fail to see where diversity (in the strict sense of accepting all human beings as equal in value) is challenged by refusing to accept all practices and lifestyles.

For excellent coverage on the whole proposition 8 fiasco, I highly recommend the podcasts from The Ruth Institute by Jennifer Roeback Morse. Also, here’s a great overview post by Wintry Knight.

  1. Actually, they do have the right to marry. Same as you and I do. What they are upset about is not being afforded special privileges that no one currently has. The whole mantra of “equality” falls flat on it’s face when you consider what is really being demanded by the GLBT community. []

Is it ok for Christians to own and use firearms for self-defense?

A friend of mine recently posed an interesting question:

Over the years the question of gun ownership by Christians comes up. I hear many sincere believers make the following statement “A real Christian wouldn’t own a gun. They would trust God to protect them”.

Does owning a firearm for protection or defense mean I don’t trust God to protect me or mean I am in sin?

If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed. A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft. Exodus 22:2-3

It’s certainly better if the person who meant to cause you harm were to live, recognize the error of their ways, repent, and be reconciled both to you and to society. However, I think the above passage in Exodus makes it fairly plain that we are permitted to defend ourselves if our lives or the lives of those we love are in imminent danger.

As for why Jesus told Peter to sell his cloak and buy a sword in Luke 22:35-38.. backtracking to verse 31 we see that Jesus warned Peter against Satan’s desire to “sift you as wheat”. Going back again to verse 29 we see that Jesus commissioned his disciples as stewards of his kingdom (which is not of this world per John 18:36) which leads me to believe that Jesus’s statement to Peter about buying a sword has to do with the defense of the kingdom he was recently put in charge of.

So Peter was (and, by extension us as well as citizens of this kingdom), in essence, put in charge of guarding God’s house much in the same way we are told to be on guard against anyone who would break in and steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

Are Christians permitted to own firearms and use them in self-defense? Absolutely! Not only are we permitted to use them in self-defense but we’ve been given weapons that are not of this world (2 Corinthians 10:4) which are more potent than any firearm for the express purpose of waging war on satan and his army.


Fyodor Dostoyevsky on socialism

I’ve been reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov on the way to work in the mornings and this passage from the first book really struck me as an excellent depiction of socialism and why it is embraced by a secular society. Emphesis mine.

The path Alyosha chose was a path going in the opposite direction, but he chose it with the same thirst for swift achievement. As soon as he reflected seriously he was convinced of the existence of God and immortality, and at once he instinctively said to himself: “I want to live for immortality, and I will accept no compromise.” In the same way, if he had decided that God and immortality did not exist, he would at once have become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism is not merely the labour question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism to-day, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth but to set up heaven on earth. Alyosha would have found it strange and impossible to go on living as before. It is written: “Give all that thou hast to the poor and follow Me, if thou wouldst be perfect.”

Read the whole chapter here.


Attending a local church

Much is made of “the local church” today but I wonder, do we really know what the term means. More importantly, do we know what that term meant to the early Christians?

In an excellent post by Alan Knox, he writes:

..“church” in the NT (when not used of the “universal” church), always designates a geographical group of people. (UPDATE: When I say “a geographical group of people,” I mean a group of people in the same geographical area. HT: Lew) For example, there is the church in Jerusalem, the church in Antioch, the church in Ephesus, etc. Yes, there are churches based in homes. But there is no indication that these churches were removed (separate) from the geographical church in the respective city.

However, today we use the term “local church” differently. We do not use “church” to specify a “geographical locale”, but instead we use the term to differentiate based on structure, organization, theology, etc. For example, the people in the houses around me attend four different “churches”. In fact, even though we are all brothers and sisters in Christ (in theory), we rarely interact. And, this is considered normal.

I think Alan is on to something here and it makes me wonder; Why do institutional churches tend to downplay this clear teaching in Scripture? Could it be that we love our sects more than God?


The nature of faith according to CS Lewis

[HT Dangerous Idea]

I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair; some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. –CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

Faith is not opposed to reason. True Biblical faith, the kind Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 15, is based squarely in truth, facts, logic, and reason and not in blind flights of fancy based in emotions and wish-fulfillment. Not that our faith is devoid of emotion or that our life in Christ is detachable from powerful experiences. However we must remember that our faith is first of all grounded in truth which is both rational and testable.


Flying Spaghetti Monster refuted!

Enjoy these videos by Dr Craig as he refutes the wildly popular meme of the Flying Spaghetti Monster


Are women ever “asking” to be raped?

I recently ran across a poll on Facebook which posed the question, “Is a woman ever “asking” for rape?”

This question intrigued me so I thought about it and came up with the following in reply:

This is a misleading question meant to elicit an emotional response as opposed to a rational one. A woman is not guilty for rape, which is wholly the fault of the rapist, but her poor choices and irresponsibility can certainly put her in greater danger she wouldn’t have otherwise have faced.

Here is a study which shows that the assertion that rapes are under-reported is not only not true, but is categorically false. The truth is that they are not under-reported but over-reported primarily because many women do not want to face the responsibility of their actions. Studies also show that drug-facilitated rape is also largely a myth as most of these incidents are, again, women refusing to face the consequences of their own inebriated and wholly consensual decisions.

Sorry, but while I do believe there are legitimate cases of random acts of evil (rape), I do not think we pay enough attention to the individual responsibility of people not to place themselves in positions where they are at greater risk.

I liken this to a person who eats at McDonalds every day and doesn’t work out. The heart attack they will likely have eventually is not less tragic but is even more so precisely because it is easily preventable.

The same concept stands for most of these cases of “rape” like with the stripper who tried to claim she was raped by the Duke lacross team.

At this point, a friend of mine brought up the topic of suggestive clothing and whether we could really make a judgement on whether anyone’s clothing was really suggestive or whether it’s all in the viewer’s mind (leaving the woman blameless regardless of her clothing).

“Suggestive” implies intent. So if a woman wears clothing with the express intention of arousing sexual desire (something that’s admittedly not hard to do with most men) then yes, she is at fault for intentionally putting herself in harms way.

Especially if you couple that with intoxication and other reckless lifestyle and relational choices such as yielding responsibility for yourself to a stranger who is either just as inebriated as you are or, worse, has nefarious intentions.

Sorry, but this is one of the reasons we teach our daughter that she needs to have shorts on under her dress. Not because we think she is intentionally trying to invite abuse but because we know that it discourages others and is more responsible than dressing her up like a slut and “tempting fate” so to speak.

And it’s not just rape that reckless living invites. Reckless lifestyles and choices invite a whole host of problems that could otherwise be mitigated or avoided altogether.


Quote: Where scientific inquiry leads

Here’s a quote by Robert Jastro that I’ve heard in several debates around the compatibility of science and religion.

[HT Brian]

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

– Robert Jastrow

(God and the Astronomers, W.W. Norton, New York, 1978, p. 116)