Friday, November 06, 2015

Double Standards

In order to establish a double-standard effectively, you need to create a series of narratives (as opposed to one single narrative) so that it masks the hypocrisy...

God's Not Dead 1 Atheist professor preaches to Christian student, student must stand up for his right to believe.

God's Not Dead 2  is simply the inverse: Christian teacher preaches to Atheist student, teacher must fight for her right to teach the Bible.

This is Tribalism 101; Us vs. Them.

The diabolical antagonists in these movies are caricatured straw men, and need to be because these movies' agenda is so misguided and sad, one dimensional disney characters are all that can support it.

These movies are born out of and perpetuate moral outrage. Which is a shame, because moral outrage is a thin veil for self-righteousness and fear.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

ELI5: How Do We Know That the Bible is Real?

I recently received this question from a young person, and quickly came to the realization that possibly the most difficult thing for me to do is articulate massive concepts in simple language. Even adults have a hard time understanding me sometimes, and this is something I am working on changing. I very much appreciate the opportunity to introduce a new series I will be calling "Explain Like I'm Five" or in reddit lingo, "ELI5". These will be real theology questions from people who will remain unnamed, but I want to share these and encourage anyone to ask me questions for this series, especially on behalf of young people. If you have a question you would like to see answered in this format, please leave an anonymous comment here.

"My question is how do we know that the bible is real and not just a book that a couple of guys put together?"

In a very real sense, it is a collection of books that a bunch of guys put together. What we believe about the Bible is that it was written by people who were inspired by God and faithfully recorded what they believed about God.

The people that wrote the Old Testament were called the "Hebrews" and they wrote about other cultures of their time. Even cultures we knew nothing about until 200 years ago! These civilizations were entirely forgotten, but the Hebrews were not forgotten. Because this "Testament" was preserved, the knowledge of the Hebrew people survived even though their homeland was destroyed and their leaders were banished. One thing we learned after discovering these forgotten civilizations is that many of the Bible's stories turned out to be "borrowed" from other civilizations and rejiggered to make radical new points about the nature of our God.

The Bible is a record of many things that can be hard to understand, and Jesus offered a fresh, new way to read scripture that convicted the leaders of his day and ultimately led to his crucifixion. By practicing what Jesus said, we allow God to transform us from the inside out. How do we know it is inspired by God? We don't know for certain, but as Christians, we trust Jesus. I read the Bible to learn what people believed about Jesus, but I trust Jesus because I have been transformed by the words of Jesus and have seen others transformed by them. Millions around the world have been transformed by them too.

The Good Muslim

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Gaza, and he fell among terrorists, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.

Now by chance a Christian was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Jew, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Muslim, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on antiseptic. Then he put him in his car and brought him to a hospital and took care of him. And the next day he took out two hundred dollars and gave it to the medic, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of terrorists?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Thursday, July 02, 2015

RE: 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

Kevin DeYoung of TGC asked 40 questions for Christians who support gay marriage, and I believe they are questions worth answering. So here we go.

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
For about 2 years now. I've been on the fence for a while, but I have found answers to my own questions through prayerful meditation and seeking wise counsel. I now believe the more difficult questions are for Christians who oppose gay marriage.

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
Galatians 3, and a re-reading of Romans 1-2. Of course, I'm vehemently opposed to lay reading scripture in isolation.

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
I honestly wouldn't expect the Bible to address a concept like sexual orientation (not known in antiquity) at all. To go looking for it is a misuse of Scripture. I can, however, use Torah to make a biblical case for obtaining women as property and celebrating bloodline inheritance. When St. Basil of Caesarea wrote against polygamy in the 4th century, he appealed to Church tradition; not to the canons. Only Roman citizens were culturally monogamous then, so it could be just as easily argued that Christians in leadership conformed to the pattern of Rome to avoid condemnation. Take that as you will.

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
I believe the depiction of marriage between man and woman united with God is sufficient for the revelation of the mystery of salvation. It is, after all, allegory for something beyond anyone's comprehension. To require everyone to experience that simply to understand it does a disservice to the celibate, or anyone in a marriage with a sexual (physical) dysfunction.

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
As long as that committed relationship was blessed by the Church. Yes, it is up to the Church, according to Matthew 16.

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
Neither Jesus nor Jewish men understood this passage as a prohibition on polygamy. In the context of divorce, this also includes a polygamous marriage, acceptable according to Genesis 4:19.

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
Being an idolatrous whore.

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
The people Paul is talking about had knowledge of God but rejected God in spite of their knowledge of Him. They made idols shaped like men and women, birds, four footed beasts and snakes or insects and then worshipped those idols instead of worshipping God[1].

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

Yes. But, also like it says in Revelation 5, everyone will worship God in heaven.

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

Shrine prostitution in Corinth, and whore-mongering.

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

...Wondering why this is isolated to Western-rite Catholicism and subsequent Reformers? I think it's fairly easy to see they got a lot of other things measurably wrong as well. Using Jesus' table-throwing as justification for Just-War theory, for example. History repeats itself, we can either learn from, or ignore the faults of our predecessors.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

In Canada, where I live, multiculturalism is the norm. So I might talk about progressive revelation and country development and history. Christians in Africa are still dealing with culturally accepted polygamy (as building an empire).

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?

I couldn't care less, but nobody can speculate on that.

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

I think male and female influences are needed. Whether those influences are in a marriage together, I'm not convinced it is necessary. The best family unit should include multiple generations, in my opinion, and should not be restricted to bloodlines. Jesus redefined family to be anyone who does the will of our Heavenly Father, ultimately (Matthew 12:46-50).

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?


16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

The Church's role here is to mother the motherless and father the fatherless.

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

I don't know any married couple that would reduce the purpose of their marriage to this.

18. How would you define marriage?

As a Christian, I define my marriage as two of us joined together with God, unseparated by mankind. But I also recognize non-Christian marriages that have various cultural definitions, and don't fit my experience.

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

As universal taboos go, incest avoidance mechanisms exist in creatures ranging from cockroaches to chimpanzees[1]. I think it makes sense as a universal law, for biological reasons.

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?

I have yet to hear a compelling case for functional plural marriages, but I accept that I only find it taboo for cultural reasons.

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

Biological, psychological, spiritual, sociological, and anthropological basis.

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?

If the requirement is based on brain development, then yes.

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?


24. If not, why not?

Not everyone is an adult.

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?

Yes. But religious freedom cannot infringe on others' freedoms. You can disagree with someone and still support their human rights, which includes LGBT marriage.

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

Yes, but not when they lose their job for discrimination. You are entitled to your interpretation of scripture, but that's all it is -- your interpretation. I would like to see more Christians acknowledge their own hermeneutics.

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

Yes, and I do. As well as against shaming and bullying LGBT Evangelicals/Catholics.

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?

Engaging in dialogue and mentoring if requested, recommending the Alpha Marriage program or similar.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?

It depends on the church.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?


31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

Better research, hopefully. What are the non affirming churches doing about these problems in the meantime?

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?

1 Corinthians 13.

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

The inverse is true: Our understanding of love shapes our obedience to God (Matthew 22:37–40).

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?


36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?

My understanding of Salvation, creation, eschatology, and hell.

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

I've stopped calling myself evangelical or giving in to Christian tribalism, and my language is far more inclusive. Christ's sacrifice was not always thought to be substitutionary; that's just Anselm's atonement theory. Most evangelicals have no idea what "born again" meant to a first century Jew. The Bible is not as trustworthy as Jesus is. And the only urgent thing is the need to slow down.

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

No such church is necessary. I'm satisfied serving in the broken, imperfect churches around me.

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?


40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?

Molech worshippers at a pagan shrine, according to Aristides.