Friday, January 30, 2015

The Coming-Out Narrative




The standard coming-out-of-the-church-closet narrative goes like this:

  • I struggled in silence against my same-sex attraction (SSA). At church, there was no one to talk to. I tried to act the role of someone that I wasn’t but lived a fearful, guilty, repressed life, certain that I would end up in hell. When I finally got the courage to be authentic, come-out, and announce that I was gay, my friends distanced themselves from me. However, I have found a new and loving community that has affirmed me completely.
British Christian songwriter and theologian, Vicky Beeching, has a similar coming-out story:

  • I’ve also lost some dear friends; people who didn’t want to know me anymore solely because I am gay. But I’ve gained so much — a huge army of loving, inclusive people from all faiths and none who’ve gathered around me online and offline. Most excitingly, I’ve met an incredible woman and we are now dating, so that’s a huge source of happiness for me. When I think back to a year ago, I could not have imagined how happy I’d be today.
I have become somewhat suspect of coming-out stories. It’s not just the incredibly high prevalence of domestic violence in the gay community or even the over-the-top language about “an incredible woman” or the “source of happiness” Beeching claims to have acquired that give me hesitation.

There are other suspicious aspects of this narrative. My friend and I just taught two classes of eighth graders about SSA. They seemed to be relieved when we taught them that having sinful desires like SSA were very common and that the Bible reveals that even Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are except without sin (Heb. 4:15-16). We explained to them the traditional Christian theology that it’s therefore not temptation that matters but whether or not we choose to handle it in a godly way – just the standard biblical teaching of any good church!

If Christian youth would simply understand this, there would be no reason to walk around feeling guilty and fearful of hell. Instead, we are assured of forgiveness when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9).

Meanwhile, the pro-gay narrative claims that the only relief is to be found in the full and authentic embrace of the gay lifestyle. Authenticity can take no other form. However, to apply this logic elsewhere, it would mean that the adulterer can only be authentic as he is having his adulterous affair, or the heroin addict can only be authentic when he is shooting-up. Instead, why cannot the person struggling against SSA authentically choose to abstain in favor of a life lived in harmony with His Savior Jesus!

I am also suspicious of the claim that when the church learns that you are gay, they will reject you. For one thing, I’ve never seen this happen in all of my 38 years as a church-goer. Nor have I heard of any cases of this within the very biblical churches that I have attended.

Admittedly, there is a problem when someone refuses to repent of their sinful behavior, whether it’s the sin of homosexual sex or stealing from the coffers. Ideally, unrepented sins should lead to corrective conversations. It is only when these fail that excommunication becomes an option – the final option for those who continue to refuse to repent.

Instead, it seems that Beeching is rejecting the church and discrediting it. She even claims that she fears violence from the church:

  • Going to such conservative, anti-gay parts of the U.S. does scare me a little in terms of personal safety​, and I’ll be looking over my shoulder a bit I’m sure​, but it seems important to go and tell my story to try to change minds and hearts.
This is not fair! Although there have been many acts of violence of gays on Christians, I am not aware of one case of a Christian attacking a gay! Nor do I know of one case where Christian parents have rejected their gay child. Instead, I know of several cases where the gay children have rejected their parents. Personally, I have had several gay friends who have rejected me because of my biblical stance on homosexuality.

More than just rejecting the church, Beeching is setting herself in opposition to the church, using her influence among the youth to “try to change [their] minds and hearts.”

No coming-out-from-story story is ever complete without mention of the tiny, entirely unrepresentative, and embarrassing Westboro Baptist Church. Nor was Beeching’s.

When I say “embarrassing,” I don’t mean embarrassing for the pro-gay community. For them Westboro is a delight. It seems that no pro-gay event is complete until Westboro arrives with their distasteful signs, which the pro-gay media gladly photographs and promotes to exemplify the “true face of Christianity.”

However, the media knows better, and the media consumers should be wary when the only church mentioned by the pro-gay media is Westboro.

Beeching insists that:

  • It’s proof that when you step into full authenticity [by embracing the gay lifestyle], life starts to flow better and you feel a renewed sense of energy and hope.
Sounds like propaganda? It’s worse! It encourages our youth to take a leap into a horribly self-destructive lifestyle. Instead of finding a “renewed sense of energy and hope,” they find greatly attenuated lifespans, STDs, depression, substance abuse to cover the guilt and shame, suicide, and even an affirming community characterized by far higher incidences of domestic violence.

Gays are suffering! What might start with gaiety will clearly end in sorrow. My purpose isn’t to give them more of it but to show them a better way.

Proof of the Existence of God from Reason



 

There are many proofs for the existence of God. This is because this universe is His creation, and all of His creations point back to their Creator. Here is just one proof out of many – The proof from reason or logic:

  1. REASON EXISTS.
  2. REASON REQUIRES A TRANSCENDENT INTELLIGENCE.
Conclusion: A TRANSCENDENT INTELLIGENCE MUST EXIST.

1.     REASON EXISTS.

This hardly requires any support. In fact, any argument against the existence of reason requires reason.


2.     REASON REQUIRES A TRANSCENDENT INTELLIGENCE.

There are several reasons for this. Reason is absolute, universal, and immutable. It must be immutable. If it isn’t, it would be like measuring a building with an elastic band. It must also be universal or it would change from day to day and from town to city, rendering it entirely useless for science or even intelligent conversation.

These qualities cannot be accounted for by a universe of molecules-in-motion. They can only be accounted for by an immutable and universal Cause and Sustainer – something that transcends this universe.

Some claim that reason is a property of this universe. However, the universe is changing. Therefore, reason would also be changing, obviating any conclusion of science. Besides, the things of this universe are impacted by other things, but nothing seems to be able to change the laws of reason and logic. (Admittedly, many things impact our use of reason and logic.)

Similarly, others appeal to evolution. However, there are many problems with this. First of all, they would have to prove that evolution isn't intelligently guided - something they can't do. Besides, evolution or naturalism would also have to account for the allied and immutable, universal physical laws, which it can't possibly do! Naturalism only has explanatory power  after “natural” laws exist.

Besides, Naturalism cannot explain the subtlety and freedom of thought necessary for science and creativity. Naturalism claims that thought is guided exclusively by bio-chemical laws. Laws work predictably and formulaically. However, these would impose such severe limitations on thought that creative and scientific thought would not be possible. It would therefore seem that more is necessary for thought to be what it is, something that accounts for some degree of mental freedom.

Reason is like the operating systems of a computer, all of which had to be intelligently created. While humans created operating systems, humans could not have created the laws of reason, logic, and the laws of science, since these predate humanity. Also, the operating system must be intelligently fine-tuned to the computer if it is to be functional. Amazingly, reason seems to have also been intelligently fine-tuned to this world.

Besides, the humanly created systems are always being improved, while reason remains as is and yet is adequate for all of our enterprises, whether in China or Alaska.

Conclusion: A TRANSCENDENT INTELLIGENCE MUST EXIST.

Praise His glory, all you His creations!


ADDENDUM: Atheists claim that we have to provide a detailed explanation of how God created. Admittedly, we cannot provide this. There is much that we do not know. Nor do we know the basic things like the nature of time, space, and matter. These remain mysteries, but this ignorance does not prevent science. Likewise, our ignorance about God does not preclude any knowledge about God and ID.

Other claim that reason and logic are also in flux. Then I would have to retort that any scientific statement is in flux and therefore must be taken tentatively at best. Nevertheless, we still make solid assertions about this world. Reason is still reason and my measuring stick can still measure the reality of length and depth. They are still rock solid and require explanations that explain this solidity.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bible Interpretation: More than a Seminary Degree




For many reasons, Bible interpretation can be challenging. I was talking to bright lawyer about the Patriarchs. Although she doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible, she likes the Patriarchal accounts and appreciates the way that the Bible portrays Patriarchs and their wives as very morally flawed humans:

  • Through revealing their moral lapses, the Bible is giving us permission to also cheat and lie. 
I protested, but she seemed to like this interpretation. She argued that through these accounts, God was also giving us the green light to act immorally.

I was horrified by this interpretation, but I could see that if we regard these Patriarchal accounts apart from the light of the rest of the Scriptures, it would be easy to make such a mistake. However, when we encounter the “thou shall nots” in Exodus through Deuteronomy, it becomes impossible to conclude that God is okay with cheating and lying.

What is the lesson here? Just as we have often heard it said – we must interpret Scripture by Scripture. This means that we have to have a command of the entire body of Scripture in order to be able to competently interpret. It helps us understand why God has given pastors and teachers to the church for its edification.

This doesn’t mean that we cannot understand a verse that tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. However, as we grow into the entirety of Scripture, we will also grow in our understanding of the nature of love.

There is also another challenge to interpretation that was illuminated by this exchange. We often see what we want to see. If we want to start a revolution, we see Jesus as a revolutionary. If we want freedom to live our lives that way we want, we emphasize the point that Jesus received everyone who came to Him and leave out the repentance part.

This is the way I too had been. I wanted to find in Scripture those verses which would make me feel good about myself, and I therefore would avoid the uncomfortable verses. What ultimately made the difference? The Spirit, and it required many years! Through many painful circumstances, He taught me to read His Words with a different eye. Now that I just want His Word and understanding, I can see what I had been unable to see.

Jesus claimed that before we judge another, we first have to judge ourselves and remove the plank (blindness) from our eyes:

  • "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
What is this plank? It is our self-imposed blind spots. We can’t judge others, since we refuse to see, let alone judge, ourselves. And if we are so blind in regards to ourselves and others, we are also blind in regards to Scripture. We only see what we want to see, what fits into our purposes.

Well, what do we do about our all-controlling blindness? After admonishing us to not throw our wisdom before those who have no regard for it, Jesus then returns us to the Spirit:

  • "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
Sound interpretation requires far more than a seminary degree. It requires the work of the Spirit. Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:4-5)! Let our continual prayer be, “Lord, you teach me!”

Is the Salvation of the Bible Unjust?




The Bible teaches a salvation through a faith/belief that Christ died for our sins (beliefs à salvation). Is this form of salvation – a salvation by mental thoughts - fair or wise? Wouldn’t the Gospel be more reasonable and just if salvation had instead been based on love or at least a doctrine-less trust in Christ?

This is the position of psychologist and professed Christian, David Benner. He rejects the significance of the truths/doctrines of the Gospel in favor of an alternative spirituality:

·       Equating faith with beliefs truncates and trivializes spirituality by reducing it to a mental process. Thoughts are, quite simply, a poor substitute for relationship. Some Christians speak much of a personal relationship with God but assume that this is based on holding right beliefs. Is it any wonder that this attempt to reduce Ultimate Mystery to theological propositions so often results in the principle personal relationship being between a person and his or her own thoughts? Cherishing thoughts about God replaces cherishing God; knowing about the Divine replaces knowing the Divine. Whenever the Wholly Other is thought to be contained in one’s beliefs and opinions, divine transcendence is seriously compromised and personal relationship with the Spirit minimized. (Soulful Spirituality, 6)

Admittedly, at first glance, the Gospel does appear foolish and divorced from fairness or justice. Paul admits as much (1 Cor. 1:25), but also claims that it is the wisdom of God. For one thing, if God used any other criterion for salvation, none of us would qualify:

·       "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)

Consequently, salvation and everything else we mercifully receive from God can only be received as a gift (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 3:26-28; Gal. 3:1-5; 5:2-4) – grace - which God grants by changing our heart so that we can believe that we are sinners who need the Savior who died for our sins (God à Beliefs [faith] à Salvation).

In light of this, it is not our thoughts alone that save us. The Devil also has the right thoughts in this regard (James 2:19). Instead, it is the gift of a new heart which opens our eyes to the truths/doctrines of the Gospel and inclines us to receive them.

Meanwhile, Benner’s view is incoherent – illogical. He argues for a faith that only contains a trust in God without an understanding of whom we are to trust! What differentiates our Savior from the god of Islam or the New Age? Doctrines! We can trust in Christ because we believe what He tells us - that we are no longer guilty of sin and that we will be with Him for eternity. Without such doctrines, trust has no foundation! It is without form and cannot be embraced. Consequently, we would simply be trusting in a vague subjective feeling – a content-less faith!

What then should I trust about such a god? I would have to trust in my feelings about him. However, I had been plagued by self-contempt and therefore felt that God also hated me. It was only the Spirit who worked through Scripture who convinced me otherwise! He assured me that my feelings didn’t reflect the truths of God but my own messed-up past.

However, this leaves the Christian faith vulnerable to another challenge:

·       If faith/salvation is a gift from God, and no one can earn or deserve it, it is unfair to condemn those who haven’t received this gift!

While we cannot earn or deserve salvation, we can certainly cry out to God to forgive our sins and to receive us. After all, we all know that we are sinners. We experience guilt and shame. However, instead of dealing honestly with our spiritual brokenness and failures, we deny, rationalize, and justify our sins, as Jesus revealed:

·       This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

Sadly, this has always been the condition of Israel, as the Prophet Jeremiah revealed:

·       “Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people [Israel] have forgotten me, days without number… On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor, though you did not catch them breaking in. Yet in spite of all this you say, 'I am innocent; he is not angry with me.' But I will pass judgment on you because you say, 'I have not sinned.'” (Jeremiah 2:32-35)

Israel had been consistently unfaithful to their God. When they sinned, they wouldn’t confess but would deny. When we charge that God is unfair, instead of honestly confessing our sins, we prove that we too are Israel.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bobby Jindal and Progressive Put-Downs



 
  The Progressives are in battle-mode over Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s statements about no-go zones in Western Europe:

  • “If we’re not careful the same no-go zones you’re seeing now in Europe will come to America,” Jindal said. “What is not acceptable and what you’ve seen in Europe and this is a very serious particular threat, you’ve got those that do want to try to impose a form of sharia law. And sharia law is antithetical, mutually exclusive of freedom, in treating women as first-class citizens, it is antithetical to the values we hold dear. And you see, third, fourth generation immigrants in the U.K., France, in other places in Europe that don’t consider themselves part of those societies and that’s very dangerous.”
If Islamic no-go zones governed by a sharia beachhead aren’t a reality, then the Progressives have a case that Jindal is just stirring up needless panic. However, if a bubonic plague is stalking the West, we want to know about it, even if it does make us uneasy.

Daniel Pipes, a former official in the U.S. departments of State and Defense and teacher at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, the U.S. Naval War College, and Pepperdine University.  is the author of 12 books on the Middle East, Islam, and other political topics. For a long time, he had denied the existence of no-zones. However, he has recently modified his views. While he still maintains that there are no absolute no-go zones where the police and military are unable to enter:

  • Governments often choose not to impose their will on Muslim-majority areas, allowing them considerable autonomy, including in some cases the Shariah courts that Emerson mentioned. Alcohol and pork are effectively banned in these districts, polygamy and burqas commonplace, police enter only warily and in force, and Muslims get away with offences illegal for the rest of the population. 
  • The Rotherham, England, child sex scandal offers a powerful example. An official inquiry found that for 16 years, 1997-2013, a ring of Muslim men sexually exploited — through abduction, rape, gang rape, trafficking, prostitution, torture — at least 1,400 non-Muslim girls as young as 11. The police received voluminous complaints from the girls' parents but did nothing; they could have acted, but chose not to.
  • According to the inquiry, "the police gave no priority to CSE [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime." Even more alarming, in some cases, "Fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene."
  • Worse, the girls "were arrested for offences such as breach of the peace or being drunk and disorderly, with no action taken against the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault against children."
  • Another example, also British, was the so-called Operation Trojan Horse that flourished from 2007 until 2014, in which (again, according to an official inquiry), a group of school functionaries developed "a strategy to take over a number of schools in Birmingham and run them on strict Islamic principles."
This problem is compounded by the jihadic intentions of the Islamic writings, which require world domination. Ibn Khaldun, the 15th century Tunisian historian, states:

  • In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense... Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.
Here’s some of the Koranic basis for this:

  • “Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion (Islam) reigns supreme, (Koran 8:37)
  • “When the Sacred Months are over, kill those who ascribe partners [like Jesus] to God wheresoever ye find them; seize them, encompass them, and ambush them; then if they repent and observe prayer and pay the alms, let them go their way’.” (Koran 4:5)
  • “…kill the disbelievers wherever we find them” (Koran 2:191) and “murder them and treat them harshly” (Koran 9:123), and “Strike off the heads of the disbelievers” (Koran 8:12, cp. 8:60).
Perhaps Jindal has a good reason for his concerns. Add to this the many confessions of ex-Muslims about a program of internal Jihad to overthrow the West, and we have the beginnings of a real plague.

Perhaps also the Progressives want to believe, against rationality, that if we would just be kind, gentle, and understanding enough, our Islamic populations will gladly reciprocate. While this strategy has proved successful with some, a Hitler will not fall into the group. Neither will a Mohammad!