No doubt, the homosexual debate is front and center in our culture. Christians appeal to the Bible as their final authority in taking a stand against homosexuality and pro-homosexual policies. But those in favor of the homosexual agenda will often point to something curiously missing from the words of the One from whom they get their name. Interestingly enough, Jesus never spoke against homosexuality. Matter of fact, He never even uses the word in His entire recorded ministry. Why is it that Christians make such a big deal about the issue if their very Savior never even spoke a word about it? Or is there something in Jesus’ message many are not seeing?
Christ speaks of homosexuality just as He does of bestiality or adultery, or any other type of sexuality outside the context of one man and one woman in marriage…He talks about “immorality” which is a summary term to cover the entire spectrum of sexual deviancy, including lustful looking (Matt. 5:28). 4 times (Matt. 5:32, 15:19, 19:9 and Mark 7:21) the gospels record Jesus speaking against “immorality.” The greek word is ‘pornei’ where we get pornography. Here is the actual Greek meaning: πορνεία, ας, ἡ –generally, of every kind of extramarital, unlawful, or unnatural sexual intercourse (Source: Friberg, Greek Analytical Lexicon) To be coy, I could ‘find’ exceptions to what Jesus said about theft also…He didn’t say anything about me stealing my neighbors Xbox, or Car, or Wallet, or TV, or lawnmower, ad infinitum…So it must be ok for me to do those since He didn’t EXPLICITLY mention them. No, because he used a summary term to cover all the exclusions (You shall not steal – Matt. 19:18). Again, same with the term “immorality”. Jesus covered a lot of ground with just one word. So it’s clear Christ spoke against homosexuality (along w/ all other sinful sexual acts) if we take Him on His own terms and in His context. Hope this helps.
Pacifism is the idea that Christians, despite the harsh treatment they receive, are never to retaliate. Verses such as 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Mat 5:38-42 NAU) But are theses verses an absolute prohibition against any form of self defense? If not, what self defense is valid under what circumstances?
Christ was warning against personal vengeneance. The eye for eye passage had originally been given to governing authorities to carry out justice (Exodus 24:21). Many had used the original passage as justification to settle personal vendettas. God’s intention for giving the legislation was different. God honoring government will be part of God’s temporal wrath against wickedness. This is stated by: “19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. (Rom 12:19 NAU) What’s interesting about this passage of leaving room for the wrath of God is the next verses (Romans13:1-7) which talk about the only proper roles of government: to reward good and punish evil. These concepts are connected. Again, Romans reiterates on the personal level what the believer is to do: 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:20-21 NAU) So the ‘eye for eye’ concept is for the State, and the overcoming evil with good’ is for the individual Christian. If a Christian experiences evil, they are to both seek for the State to bring about justice and yet seek to show love towards their enemy. These are complimentary responses of the Christian: one he is to give to the state, and the other he is personally responsible for carrying out.
But what about war? What if the government is the tyrant? Does this change of circumstance mitigate a different response to the governing authorities? Or do Christians simply submit and passively die at the hands of a bloodthirsty state? I think this is where the Bible makes a distinction that has been lost by many. The answer to “Can Christians take up arms?” is ‘it depends’.
If the government takes up persecution against Christians BECAUSE they are Christians, then I would say no. Scripture often speaks of Christians being persecuted on ACCOUNT OF their faith. At this point, Christians need to love their enemies however they can. If it means they love their enemies by fleeing the area so their enemies are not guilty of committing further crimes against Christians, then Christians should flee. (The Apostle Paul did this.) If it means stay so they can lay down their lives so others can hear of Christ, then stay. If it means Christians have any opportunity of petitioning for a redress of grievances against the government and are possibly able to get the government to change, then perhaps that’s what they should do.
But is there any place for armed resistance? Yes, I think very much so. Again it depends on the situation. What if the State is warring against all its citizens without just cause? Then Christians should love their neighbors and take up arms to defend. This is one of the reasons the bible makes a clear moral and legal distinction between killing and murder (Even our judicial system recognizes the difference.) There is no moral justification for allowing another Aushwitz to take place in front of our eyes if all means of possible government petition have failed. This self defense is just that: self defense. Again, for the Christian it is no consequence of whether they die or not. But it is of consequence for our neighbors. Loving my neighbor means I’m willing to lay down my life for them and even for other Christians to protect them. Christ’s instruction undercuts the tendency for self protection for the Christian. My defense for my neighbor is not self protection, but self sacrifice for the preservation of the good of my neighbor and the stop of the encroaching evil.
So should Christians take up arms? Yes, if my neighbor’s welfare is at stake I’m to love him by protecting him. Self defense becomes more of self-less defense because it’s neighbor focused. No, if it’s for stopping persecution against me on account of me being an individual believer. Love for my enemy may look very different depending on the circumstances and possibility of responses. In all things, love directs us.
**This blog article doesn’t deal w/ self defense of the nature if someone invades your home and poses a threat to you and your family. The bible allows such self defense whether a believer or not. — Exodus 22:2 If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him. See also Ezekiel 33:6 for the right for self defense.
I’m simply reposting here a good scholary response to this question in light of recent news. The link was somewhat long to place in a church bulletin so I placed it here for easy reference.
Watch this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agDyieQQxeU Wow! What a great commentary on the current condition of singleness in America. For centuries, humanity has married. Couples have even married in their teen years. But not us. We must seek many things before family: the ‘right’ job, travel the world (man, have many times have I heard this one from women! Sorry ladies, I don’t know what the guys are saying to you! Feel free to comment.), find myself (whatever that means), date around (can’t marry the first dozen you meet right?), ad infinitum. This video really ought to strike a chord with us. The world senses something is wrong, especially at the end of the journey of the current American singles’ mindset. Sure, lots of parties, get togethers, outtings, traveling, etc but you still come home by yourself. You still face the emptiness of the nest. You know your future heritage through children is cut off. You know the clock has struck midnight and the dance is over. Ah, what great wisdom Christians have followed in being like Americans regarding marriage and singleness!
The Lord tells us what should be the wisdom we follow: Genesis 1:28 ‘God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Now consider this: why would the infinitely wise God, out of the endless things He could have said to man first, choose to say: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…” as His first statement to humanity? He could’ve said “Don’t sin” or “Love me always”, etc. But instead He talks about marriage and family. Families big enough to ‘fill the earth.’ And that’s a lot of real estate to cover! By the way, notice how also ‘being fruitful and filling the earth’ is directly related to ‘subduing the earth’ in the same context. Without children to follow us in life, subduing simply stops because there is no one else there to carry on the work. And from a Christian standpoint, if we remain childless then the subduing that will be done will be accomplished for the idols of the world and the glory of man rather than for Christ and His kindgom. And interesting enough, I hear Christians mourn across America because we are losing the culture war. Well, guess why. We don’t have children, so we don’t have our kids to subdue the world for Christ. But yet we continue to follow the wisdom of the world. How silly! No wonder we are losing and will continue to lose the cultural war. Simple truth: demographics is destiny. Dislike it if you will, but the ones who have children will direct the future of society.
Here’s another interesting tidbit from history to give us some perspective. Did you know that the church never had a singles ministry for over 1,950 plus years of its existence? Poor church! How’d they ever make it without a singles ministry? Or, perhaps this speaks more to where we are off base. Perhaps we are the anomaly. It doesn’t take much observation to see that singleness is epidemic in the church. Entire ministries, budgets, conferences, etc are built around something the history of the church has never seen before. And yet singleness is celebrated as if it is normative or an equally valid option as marriage. How do you reconcile this with 1 Timothy 4:1-3? The last days marking a time of falling away from the Lord will be evidenced by people who ‘forbid marriage’. What’s even more striking about this passage is that it’s linked with the doctrine of demons! “No marrying” mindset equal to doctrines of demons?! Not sure I’ve ever heard that during singles ministry!
It seems its hard to find singles committed to the local church at each of its established meeting times. But offer a conference where it’s an opp for adventure, travel, new experience, social gathering, etc and you’ll have them there. And yet they can’t seem to commit to marriage and children. It’s no surprise they won’t commit to the local church. Too many options out there to go after whether it’s in get togethers meeting other singles or conferences offering various topics to the multi-facted interests of today’s singles. And singles do have options. That’s part of the appeal. But one thing they don’t have an option on: the end result of their choice. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7 The sad part is that there is bitter fruit that comes with delayed marriage. The bitter fruit is that there is no fruit at all.
Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
We should take note of the first question in the Bible. Satan asks specifically about the prohibition God put on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But the implications of his question are more far reaching. We all know what it’s like to ask loaded questions. We’ve seen how a well placed question has a surface answer but can also imply several other things. And this is the exact strategy the Serpent employs against our first parents.
Implicit in the question are several things the Tempter seeks to use against us even today. (See 2 Corinthians 2:11) Satan has no new tricks – just the old ones repackaged. The evil one’s strategy is to lead us away from the bedrock of God’s revelation with the final goal being alienation from the Lord Himself. So what are some of the implied ideas in Satan’s question that we face in our daily temptations?
The most pernicious idea embedded in the Great Deceiver’s question is another question: Has God spoken at all? Even this question tumbles into more ramifications because if God has not spoken then the next thoughts are: Does God even exist? If He does, is He even personal? Are we even able to have a relationship with Him? If God hasn’t spoken, how can man be in the image of God? But if God has spoken, then He is there, He is personal, and He does desire a relationship with us.
Another implanted question within the Liar’s original question is, “If God has spoken, is it clear?” The implication Satan is making is that God had said earlier the man and woman could eat from any of the trees. Why is God now contradicting Himself by saying you can’t eat of THIS tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Isn’t God confusing you by changing the rules? There is nothing new under the sun. Modern variations on this question are: “Isn’t the Bible inconsistent and full of errors? How is what God said and did in the Old Testament like the God in the New Testament? Do God’s words really mean what you think they do? If the bible were true, then why do you have so many different interpretations?” No doubt some places in God’s word are hard to understand. And no doubt some may have legitimate questions regarding various issues. But there are times when Satan uses these questions as either smoke screens to hide the truth or as a way to confuse the clear revelation of God.
There is a third question lodged within the Tempter’s question: Isn’t God’s law too restrictive? Shouldn’t it be broader to include ‘all the trees’? We hear Satan’s voice whisper in its current forms of “Why is the bible God’s only book? Isn’t it narrow minded to say Jesus is the only way? Doesn’t living by the bible make life dull and boring? Why can’t we enjoy everything in this life and not be punished for it?” Satan panders sin under the guise of freedom. But we shouldn’t be deceived – sin always brings enslavement (John 8:34).
A fourth question deposited in the Devil’s original question is “Shouldn’t creation rather than the Creator be your main focus?” Satan’s ploy was to get Eve more focused on the fruit God created and what it could offer her rather than the gracious provision she already had in her Creator. This implication gets to the origin and heart of what the bible calls idolatry. We desire to love creation more than the Creator, even if it’s ourselves! (See Romans 1:25)
Satan’s use of a question is not doubt sinful. But is it the case that every question a person has towards the Lord is inherently wrong? No, it’s not. Throughout the scriptures God’s people have doubts and questions. They wonder why God is doing what He is doing. They wonder where He is at in their life or situation. They may be asking to know the Father’s will. But Satan’s question is a different issue.
The Evil One is seeking to undermine the authority of God’s word, the clarity of God’s word, and minimize God’s word by making it look too overreaching into our original parent’s lives. But God’s word is our very life! (John 6:68) Thru God’s word we come to know that He really is there and knowable! We are given the knowledge of salvation that is in the only Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ! (John 1:14) And it is thru the Word of God that ultimately the Old Serpent will be destroyed! (Revelation 20:10)
Without the Word of God, the image of God in man gets continually degraded by buying into substitute revelations like the one Satan offered Eve in the garden. And a substitute revelation is no revelation at all as our parents found out. We too are tempted to jettison the clear word of God for the latest fad, to follow the line of questioning that most appeals to our desires, and to feel that our freedom is jeopardized by complete obedience to God’s holy word. But we must recognize these temptations for what they are: lies and deception!
So where in your life do you question what God has clearly said? Maybe you are wondering if God has spoken at all. Or, where do you feel God is limiting your freedom? Where you feel you are unnecessarily limited by God is where you are wanting to concede to sin. Be on guard! Or, what fruit of creation is so enticing to you? A person, a thing, a desire? What in creation is being offered to you that seeks to take the place of heart devotion which should only be reserved for Jesus Christ? Usually we only think Satan has the goal of wanting people to hate. But Satan has no problem if you love, as long as it’s something in creation over the Creator.
There is no problem with having legitimate questions. The problem comes when we put a question where God has placed a period. So who are you going to believe?
So far we have looked at various epistemologies people base their lives on. The ones we have looked at are reason, experience, science, and feelings. Even though each of them contain ways we learn and know things, in the end they can never bring certainty to our knowledge of themselves. At best they can only be ‘most likely’ true. They may be true in what they tell us, but we have no way of knowing for sure (aka having certainty). We need to have an epistemological basis (how we know what we know) that gives us certainty in our knowledge and rids us of doubt. But before we cover what that epistemology should be, we need to first ask and answer: why, other than having certainty in knowledge, is it so important to have the right epistemology? In short, it’s sinful and rebellious against God to do otherwise.
Before going any further, please read Genesis 3:1-7. Did you read it? Good! Now we need to think carefully about this account in Genesis 3. The same tricks and deception Satan used then are the same tricks and deception he seeks to use today. (See 2 Corinthians 2:11) There are many lessons to learn from Genesis 3 but for our point think of the temptation Adam and Eve faced in light of our current discussion of epistemology (how we know what we know). But one more thing first!
In the beginning God created man without sin. No fall, blemishes, nor animosity towards God. Man didn’t have any issue with his environment. Now what is of particular interest in the account even before man had sinned or had a broken, cursed environment to live in, man NEEDED according to God’s design for God to SPEAK to Him! (See Genesis 1:28-30, 2:16) Why is this important to our discussion? Because man was NEVER made to be an independent knower apart from God’s revelation. Even in a state of innocence, man NEEDED for God to interpret reality to him. He needed the Lord to give him KNOWLEDGE about reality. Knowledge that was certain and true at all points. Knowledge that allowed man to not only to know, but to know how he knows. How’s that? By the Word of the Lord!
God gave man the epistemology he needs: revelation! Think of this: nothing is more real than the reality of God’s word! The entire fabric of the universe is predicated and built on the word of God! (See Genesis 1, John 1:1-3). An amazing thought! It’s why God’s word must have first place in all things, especially our epistemology. Reason, experience, science, feelings, and whatever else man may use as the basis for his epistemology is all part of creation that is itself dependent on and owes its existence to revelation.
This is why having any form of knowledge as our ultimate basis of knowing apart from revelation is sinful. It is elevating the creation above the Creator. (See Romans 1:25) So the problem is not only having uncertainty as a basis for knowledge but it is absolute treason and rebellion against God Himself to base our ultimate knowledge on anything other than revelation. God who knows all things and how all things relate to each other is why we can have certainty in our knowledge when we base it on God’s revelation. The world will never have certainty due to the inherent limitations of basing their knowledge on something in creation (reason, experience, etc) rather than the Creator. (Again, Rom. 1:25)
Now look again at Genesis 3:1-7. What does Satan really offer man? He offers reason, experience, feelings, and scientific experiment as the way to find knowledge apart from the revelation of God! Did not God give reason, experience, science, and feelings as ways of knowing? Yes and no. They are valid ONLY as they are related and grounded in revelation. We only have certainty in these forms of knowledge IF they are based on revelation. For example, reason can be certain IF it is based on the revelation of God. It can’t give certainty otherwise. Again, using them independently is absolutely sinful. (Consider 2 Corinthians 10:5 in relation to this whole discussion) It is in essence anti-Christ knowledge! (See Prov. 1:7, Colossians 2:3) This is the whole point of Satan’s temptation. He offers knowledge and goodness AS IF they are independent of God (that is, as if they are something outside of God that God Himself needs/has access to) when in fact all knowledge is found in Christ!
Is this not our current state? Think of what this affects if we take seriously revelation as our ultimate epistemology. What ramifications does this have for counseling? What about ‘public education’? What about the role and limits of government? What about the Christian life and our pursuits? How’s it relate to how we govern the church? How should it affect how our homes are managed? (See Deuteronomy 6:1-25) What about our engagement with culture? How will it shape what we ‘say’ to them?
If Christians would really get the impact of this truth, it would change the church and our culture. We need to call ourselves to repentance for seeking knowledge apart from grounding it first and ultimately in the revelation of God. No longer does experience, autonomous reasoning, the ‘experts of society’, feelings, or the latest science to have hold or govern our lives. It is time for the church to once again regain its prophetic voice of ‘Thus says the Lord!’ There is more to that phrase than most have realized! Speaking ‘Thus says the Lord’ is the most certain thing we can do. God even promises to bless His word over anything else! (See Psalm 147:15, Isaiah 55:11, John 6:63, Hebrews 12:26-29 ‘His voice’)
“Religion is dead and science is king.” “Now we can get rid of all myths and religions since we know the scientific answers to reality.” “I can’t take a leap of faith to believe in religion, I only trust what can be proven by science.” Again, we’ve all heard these sayings or slightly different versions of them. Christians have encountered a world of skepticism from various people due to society’s strong commitment to the scientific method. How do we as Christians stand against an overwhelming consensus of opinion about how science has disproved Christianity? Or, how do we move the skeptic who only accepts what is provable by science to consider the biblical storyline?
Well, this week I want us to consider the epistemological (how we know what we know) status society has given to science in seeking to have a comprehensive knowledge. The comprehensive search for knowledge is in order to have certainty which in turn makes life meaningful. I also want to show that it’s not as strong as an epistemological foundation as modernists might believe.
The understanding that all reality can ultimately be explained by or through science is called Empiricism. Since the Enlightenment and the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, Western Civilization has jettisoned the biblical storyline and has instead sought to explain everything in terms of reason. More specifically, they have sought to explain reality through the reasoning of science. How did science get such a stronghold as the ultimate basis of knowledge?
With the understanding that the universe was based on fixed principles, which we now call scientific laws (ex. Gravity), Mystery began to be replaced with scientific understanding. No longer were spirit beings or ghosts needed to explain why things fell from shelves. Gravity was now the culprit! This extended further and further into areas until the biblical God was no longer needed to ‘explain’ reality. Science had already or at least one day, they believe, would be able to explain all things. Now we even ‘know’ how we got here. God didn’t create us. We evolved through a scientific process. At least that’s what is claimed.
Biblical explanations of reality began to be replaced with scientific formulas and reasons for how and why things were the way they were. Western man began to see less and less need for the biblical worldview and instead adopted a naturalist worldview. Naturalism is the belief that nature is all there is and ever will be. Therefore, the assumption goes that if anything exists it must be explained in terms of material reality and laws. In short, appealing to a supernatural Being (God) is not needed. Science does not need to be limited by religious myths. With a view like this, how can biblical Christianity stand? Is it inevitable science will win as the ultimate epistemology? Will science be able to ultimately explain all of reality?
No, science neither has nor ever will be able to explain ultimate reality in terms of how we know what we know. Why is that? Because empiricism is itself a belief system. Empericism is the belief that everything can and must be explained through the scientific method. But it’s a belief system that cannot stand against scrutiny. Empericism will also, like the other forms of knowledge we’ve looked at so far, lead to uncertainty and skepticism. Why is that?
Science by its very nature is limited. It is itself of and from creation. It can never test for or know of immaterial, spiritual things since the scientific method by definition only deals w/ material things. Further, science is limited because of the ability of man to develop enough tools, gather enough data, and put it all together in such a way that it explains everything about reality in ALL its relationships to the rest of reality. This science cannot do. It would take infinite resources, tools, and intellect to do so. Only God meets these qualifications.
Ironically enough, the scientific method cannot account for everyday reality. What is justice, love, hope, dreams, etc in a scientific method only world? A large part of ‘human-ness’ dies with an empericists only worldview. Further, the claim is self refuting. How do you through empericism prove your philosophy of “I only believe what can be scientifically proven”? This very statement can’t be scientifically proven. It falls under its own weight.
Empericists should also consider based on their own worldview they do not even have a reason for having things called ‘laws’. How is this so? Because if all that exists is matter which is evolving, how do you base your science on anything? If everything is changing, even if so slowly, how can you have certainty that the experiment you did yesterday will still come out the same way today? Consider: naturalistic empiricism will never be able to get past the 1st experiment. They’d have to keep repeating it to have certainty about its results for today. Something more certain must guide our life. Genesis 3 is what we will look at next week.