I've been doing some study in Acts 19. We have in that chapter the interesting situation that Paul, the Christian, is debunking the imaginary polytheistic beliefs of a whole community that believes in the goddess Diana (goddess of the hunt, moon, and birthing). He did the same in Athens (Acts 17) and elsewhere on his missionary tours. In these cases, the Christian confronted a polytheistic world for its belief in imaginary gods and calling it to abandon those beliefs in favor of the belief in the one true God.
Today it is in vogue for atheists to mock the "imaginary" beliefs of Christians in a God they cannot see, who is written about in a Bible that contains all kinds of supposed evil. To them, God is an imaginary friend on the one hand, and His book and practices are unspeakably evil on the other.
This mocking is done by those who imagine spontaneous generation occurred in a primordial pea soup of unknown origin that created complex and varied living systems. These organisms are now in a life and death struggle for survival in a world filled with natural and man-made evil. It seems like the atheist/evolutionist believes in something you cannot see or replicate and which resulted in a world full of evil.
I’ll take the Christian Theistic explanation any day! Especially since I understand things a lot differently than the caricature that atheism makes of Christianity. God cannot be seen? True...except that God came as a man in the incarnation and He was seen for over three decades on this earth. The evidence for that is quite overwhelming. God is evil? That simply reflects sinners laying blame for sin at the feet of God instead of at their own feet. God is not a sinner; man is. Just like Adam and Eve tried to shift blame for evil onto someone or something else, so the sinner today does the same thing and shifts blame onto God. But once blame is assigned properly--to people--then God's actions in judging the blameworthy can be understood properly.
Let us review where we have been:
1. The first reason you should read the Bible is that its central figure is a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who made claims that are extraordinary. One claim he made was that he would die and rise again from the dead.
2. The second reason you should read the Bible is because it explains many things in the world that others have no good explanation for.
3. The third reason you should read the Bible is because it covers all the really important events of world history.
4. The fourth reason you should read the Bible is because so many people and institutions do not want you to read it.
5. The fifth reason you should read the Bible is that its central character, Jesus Christ, claimed to be the son of God. In so doing, he actually claimed to be God in the flesh.
Maybe you have a problem with one of those points? Try this: suspend disbelief for the time being and take them at face value. Then move on to point #6 and think about it for a while.
The sixth reason you should read the Bible is that it explains why you and do bad things and why everyone else does too. These things are called by the term "sin" in the Bible. The Bible states the fact that all people do bad things. For example, Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned." Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin."
The Bible explains that the tendency to do sin comes from our parents, through their parents, and their parents, all the way back to the first man and woman in the garden of Eden. God gave them a command to do certain things and not do certain other things, and they chose to rebel against God (Genesis 2:17, 3:1-24). All of humanity has been in a state of rebellion and sin ever since then. Therefore, while we recognize that our parents have given us many good things, there is one bad thing they gave us, and that is the tendency to sin.
The natural consequence of sin is death. Sin is the ultimate reason for death of every sort, whether by cancer or accident or heart failure or just "old age."
Do you agree that you have this "sin" problem?
We will see next time a seventh reason you should read the Bible is that it tells of Jesus, who said that He was the only way to have our sins washed away so that we can win the battle against sin and death.
Here's a nice little book about the spiritual gift of tongues. It sticks close to Scripture and its organization is easy to follow:
The lengthiest chapters are the 8 and 9 regarding 1 Corinthians 14. Zeller has an interesting thesis in chapter 9 that has to do with 14:21, which says:
In the law it is written: "With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me," says the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:21 NKJV)
Zeller notes a repeated pattern in the Old Testament, and in the New, that goes like this (p. 78):
The point is that tongues are a sign of judgment against unbelief. This view is not novel, as I have heard it preached by other dispensationalists. I have not heard about this idea in the recent debate on continuationism—but it would be interesting to hear the continuationist response. The "tongues for judgment" view is fairly convincing, as the pattern is evident from Babel through the major prophets and then into Acts 2. As such, it baffles me why some Christians are so insistent on wanting a spiritual gift that has to do with judgment and has such a low edification value (1 Cor. 14:5).
Zeller then uses this as the basis of his argument that tongues must have only lasted until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 because step 4 of his paradigm (dispersion) was completed at that point and therefore tongues had served out their purpose. This is intriguing, but I am not convinced. (I understand the termination of tongues contextually from 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 2:20.)
The book is by George W. Zeller, God's Gift of Tongues: The Nature, Purpose, and Duration of Tongues as Taught in the Bible, Wipf & Stock Publishers 2005, 126 pages including bibliography. This book was earlier published by Loizeaux Brothers in 1978. It is available at Amazon. A better way to get the book is to send me an email request through our contact page. I will get you in touch with Brother Zeller and he can get the book to you at a reduced price.
NPR and newspapers around the country recently printed a political cartoon by Signe Wilkinson supporting gay marriage. In the cartoon, Rev. Frank Schaefer is shown reading a suspension letter. He was defrocked for officiating at his son's gay wedding and "not denouncing gay marriage." The second panel shows a sympathetic caricature of Jesus saying that he did not denounce gay marriage either.
That would be convenient, if it were true, but any honest reading of the New Testament would not be able to come to that conclusion—not if the reader takes the text at face value. Certainly Jesus did not "denounce" gay marriage using Westboro Baptist methods. He did not get on a soapbox and preach against gays or one or the other specific form of sexual sin. He didn't express hate toward sinners trapped and dying in their sin. But he did set out the positive expression of God's holiness, and that is one man joined to one woman for life:
And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6 NKJV)
Jesus also set forth the principle that all sins, not just sexual ones, come from within the heart of man, that center of personality and will that is the real person.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Mathew 15:19 NKJV)
Not only did Jesus himself teach these things; his followers, the apostles, were even more pointed in their letters, which form most of the New Testament. Jesus authorized and superintended the writing of the New Testament, so he is "implicated" in all of its contents. Consider:
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13 NKJV)
The apostles came to this important conclusion in an early church council:
As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. (Acts 21:25 NIV)
Sexual immorality is any sexual activity outside of marriage, defined as one man and one woman joined together permanently.
Paul was another of Jesus' commissioned writers:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV)
It is instructive to note that the sins of homosexuality, sodomy, fornication, adultery, thievery, greed, drunkenness, and others are placed on the same "level." Good Christians are not out to pick on one sin more than others. Christians want to live holy lives as a reflection of the purity of their God and Savior Jesus Christ. They proclaim an upright kind of life.
There are lots of reasons why people think of some sins as worse than others. In some cases, the earthly consequences of certain sins are heavier than the consequences of other sins. And in other cases, sins are especially distasteful to the Christian because they seem unnatural. Paul gives warrant for this thought in Romans 1:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:26 NKJV)
Paul's statement about the natural order doesn't require that we be obnoxious in our presentation of the truth. Unfortunately, supporters of gay marriage will normally perceive the Christian to be obnoxious just because of the content of what he is saying, regardless of his manner.
Back to the original question then: did Jesus denounce gay marriage? Basically, yes. He set forth the right way to do things, and commissioned certain ones to write further details on it in which he, together with them, spoke against gay marriage.
Examples of a bad hermeneutic:
In some places in Scripture, birds, leaven, and fig trees may indeed represent those things, but not always. If the context says so, fine. But if you are importing the meaning of a symbol from a remote context to your local context, you will almost certainly make the local context say something that its author never meant to say.
When you take care to avoid this interpretive error, you will find that:
I just finished read an interesting, although somewhat technical, book by Dr. John Sanford. He begins by defining the "primary axiom" of biological evolution this way: Life is life because random mutations at the molecular level are filtered through a reproductive sieve acting on the level of the whole organism (page 5). To summarize even further, life comes about because of random mutations filtered through natural selection. Upon that axiom the whole house of evolution stands. Sanford says the axiom is basically uncritically accepted by all evolutionary biologists and population geneticists.
The thesis of the book is that the primary axiom is not true. In the first place, on its surface it doesn't seem plausible because of the massive complexity of the genome and the amount of information it encodes in any living creature. In the second place, the genome of, say, human beings, is degrading over time. This is "entropy" in the genetic makeup. In the third place, the primary axiom cannot create new genetic information within the timescale suggested by evolutionists. Therefore, Sanford writes on p. 139,
We have reviewed compelling evidence that, even when ignoring deleterious mutations, mutation/selection cannot create a single gene within the human evolutionary timescale. When deleterious mutations are factored back in, we see that mutation/selection cannot create a single gene, ever. This is overwhelming evidence against the Primary Axiom. In my opinion this constitutes what is essentially a formal proof that the Primary Axiom is false.
He concludes this way on p. 150:
What is the mystery of the genome? Its very existence is its mystery. Information and complexity which surpass human understanding are programmed into a space smaller than an invisible spec of dust. Mutation/selection cannot even begin to explain this. It should be very clear that our genome could not have arisen spontaneously.
Michael Behe wrote an interesting blurb on the back cover: "In Genetic Entropy, Cornell University researcher John Sanford lifts the rug to see what evolutionary theory has swept under it. He shows that, not only does Darwinism not have answers for how information got into the genome, it doesn't even have answers for how it could remain there."
The book is Dr. John C. Sanford, Genetic Entropy & The Mystery of the Genome, FMS Publications, 2008, 226 pages including glossary and index. Multiple editions are available.
Or is it?
There are many people who would agree that the Bible is fiction. They would argue that Costco should have kept the category as is because it is accurate. But on what basis do they make that claim?
The news articles did not impart information that would help readers to know whether the Bible is actually fiction or not. Here are some thoughts to fill in that gap.
The first four New Testament books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) are biographies of Jesus written by eyewitnesses and close associates. The fifth book, Acts, is a history of the early church, also written by an eyewitness. As they consist of eyewitness accounts and have been confirmed in many points by archaeology, they can hardly be called fiction. Those who suggest these writings are fiction would do well to consider the historical evidence for Jesus in comparison to any other major figure of the ancient world whose existence they acknowledge.
The remainder of the New Testament books are letters from Paul, James, John, Peter, and Jude to particular recipients. As such, they are first-century "epistles" of great historical value that discuss the Christian faith. Such letters are not in the fiction genre but are rather of the epistolary genre.
As for the Old Testament, the first five books were written by the hand of Moses. They record events before his lifetime, such as creation, and many events in which he was a firsthand participant. Many of these events, again, are substantiated by archaeological evidence. No one can doubt that the law of Moses was a historical reality and greatly influential upon the Jewish people. Joshua and Judges and the books of the Hebrew Kings (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles) are also historical books. The prophets basically predict Israel's demise and call the nation back to faithfulness to its covenant with God made through Moses. These are ancient documents of no small import, many replete with fulfilled predictive prophecy and prophecies that have not yet come to pass. The argument can be sustained that none of these books are fiction.
The poetic books are the remaining section of Scripture that I haven't mentioned. These books, such as the Psalms, contain Israel's hymnody and wisdom for living. These may be called poetic in genre, but not fiction. Many Psalms, for instance, reflect back on the historical realities of the nation of Israel. Proverbs mirror the historical Mosaic covenant.
True—our atheist opponents will say that the Bible's content is fictional. Some events recorded in the Bible, such as the creation account, are rejected in favor of evolutionary origins. Other parts of the Bible are rejected because they are not convenient to an un-holy lifestyle. But all this is a reflection on a belief system or worldview, not on the Bible itself. The Bible presents itself as non-fiction.
Last year, I mentioned to our congregation that the Isaac Watts hymn "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" seemed to be lacking in that it focuses on general revelation in creation, but does not address the power of God in salvation. I was particularly thinking of Ephesians 1:19:
And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.
So I asked if someone might compose a verse for the hymn that would fill in this gap.
The result of the work of two our our church members can be found in this PDF file which you are welcome to use in your church and personal worship if you so desire.
Their verses are:
I thank you, God, that in your plan I would become your own
Foreknown before the world began to bow before your throne. So greater still than all your lands, the sun, the sky, the sea Is resting safely in your hands for all eternity.
I sing the mercy of our God who conquered sin and death.
He sent to earth His only Son to suffer in our stead.
I sing the love of Christ our Lord who gave His life for us,
That we may stand before the throne redeemed, victorious.
Some more "anti-advice."
The International Church of Christ, www.icoc.org, is definitely a cult. The following quotation is taken from Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 12th Edition (2005) by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood, p. 255-56.
Many of its former members describe it in negative terms. It was founded by Kip McKean (1955-) while serving as pastor of the Lexington Church of Christ in Massachusetts...includes intensive recruitment of members...members of the church commit themselves as disciples and to bringing new disciples into the fold. Discipling is based on a strict obedience to the "discipler." All personal decisions, including dating and marriage, are subject to the approval of the discipler. Members are expected to confess all of their sins, which may be recorded for future reference...The ICC...is not congregational in polity. All congregations are linked in a pyramid structure with McKean's Los Angeles congregation at the top. The ICC teaches that believer's baptism by immersion is necessary for salvation. Those not baptized into the International Churches of Christ are considered damned, and members are urged to sever ties with those not baptized.
Some of the above is dated now. McKean has stepped down from his original leadership role, but the troubling requirement of baptism for salvation remains, along with a high degree of control of members by leadership. Further information can be found on Wikipedia.