Charlottesville

Unless you are a hermit with no access to news media you cannot have missed the turmoil that occurred his past August 12, a Saturday in a small town. Some white nationalists had planned to hold a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to show their disapproval of the removing of a Robert E. Lee statue. Some white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups showed up and from what I can tell commandeered the rally, which sparked anti-racial protests in response.

The two groups began to exchange expletives, name-calling and throwing things at one another. One group yelled racial epithets, someone reportedly hollered on the other side, “black lives matter.” One thing led to another so that the rally turned protest degenerated into what can be described as a riot.

As the melee erupted the local police stood on the sidelines making little effort, the small town police force possibly unable to control the crowds, to stop the violence seemingly content to witness and contain it.

A young man that reports claim was a white supremacy sympathizer drove his car into the counter-protestors killing a woman and seriously injuring several more. Dozens more were injured in the many fistfights that broke out.

President Trump accused both sides of contributing to the violence, and there seems to be some evidence of that, and Michael Signer, Charlottesville’s mayor, accused the President of promoting the racial divide that led to the rioting. Democrats and Republicans both condemned the violence.

What should believers make of all this?

I am in favor of a strong sense of nationalism that supports our government’s efforts to provide for the wellbeing and protection of all its citizens equally. I am not entirely sure what “white” nationalism is but when one qualifies nationalism with a color it already sounds racist to me. I believe black lives matter, but that is because I believe all lives matter.

If anyone thinks racism is on the wane in this country, Charlottesville will make him think again. Sadly, it is alive and well and it may very well be that the racism we are reaping now is from the slavery we sowed years ago.

It is difficult to imagine that the brutality and cruel practice of slavery in this country’s past could be sanctioned as anything akin to the description of it in Scripture. And racism, slavery’s illegitimate child, has absolutely no biblical support. No man, whatever the color of his skin, can claim any superiority when Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23.

Paul also tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men,” Romans 12:18. But when people cease being God–centered, they quickly become self-centered, and when they turn away from God, it is not long before they turn on one another.

Unless our nation experiences a mighty repentance and revival we can expect to see the things we witnessed in Charlottesville again.

Is Evolution v. Creationism just a war of words?

I read an article recently that suggested those of us who believe in creation are merely quibbling over the meaning of the word theory and ignoring reality. Really?

To be honest, there are two very different senses of the word theory that conflict. Evolutionists use theory as “a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena.”

Creationists on the other hand see the word theory as “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.”

The conflict between the two definitions is clear. There are several underlying hypotheses that must be true for the general theory of evolution to be true. Let’s look into the scientific reality of those hypotheses.

Evolutionists discount the creationist claim that God created life and counter that life began spontaneously on its own. The reality is the whole scientific community is not in possession of a single observable fact about the beginning of life. The National Academy of Science said in one of their publications they have been unable to produce life in the laboratory, and even if they had, they admit they cannot say that is the way life began. The question of how life began has only two possible answers; either God created it, or it began on its own.

Evolutionists claim the diversity of life is the result of billions of beneficial germinal mutations occurring over billions of years. We know malevolent germinal mutations exist, e.g., albinism, but there is not one example of a known beneficial germinal mutation. Current claims of evolution can be laid at the feet of dominant/recessive gene action based on inherent DNA data. There has not been any new genetic information produced by beneficial germinal mutations.

Evolutionists say humans share a strong genetic resemblance in their DNA with our simian cousins suggesting a common ancestor. While all the ape species share genetic similarities they evidently are not reproductively compatible. If we are so strongly related to suggest common ancestry would that not suggest reproductive compatibility to ensure continued evolution? Where is that body of evidence?

Evolutionists tells us comparative anatomy, the idea most creatures share common anatomical similarities such as a skeletal system, and embryonics, the idea that all creatures share similarities in their formative stages, are evidence we share common ancestry. Those are assumptions that prove nothing about evolution.

It is these kinds of leaps in logic that make me feel comfortable taking a leap in faith. If all evolutionists have are theories about the facts, then evolution is more a matter of faith than it is science. And when it comes to faith I will stick with the Scriptures.

Paul warned Timothy “keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding…oppositions of science falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith,” 1 Timothy 6:20-21 (KJV). That sounds reasonable.

Rob Bell and Hell

Rob Bell was speaking in Atlanta recently and a CNN writer wrote about it in an article titled Outlaw pastor Rob Bell shakes up the Bible belt. Rob is the author of several books that question Christian beliefs on a number of doctrines. The one he is most known for is his teaching that hell is not an everlasting place of torment.

There were some detractors outside preaching and passing out tracts to warn those arriving not to listen to him. And Rob made no attempt to placate his detractors when he said that white evangelicals had elected a man who had “no moral compass.”

He did not explain how that distinguished Donald Trump from Hillary Clinton, but if he thinks the last election was about which of the two moral midgets was the tallest, I can understand why he has difficulty interpreting the Scriptures.

There are a couple of things that need to be considered when talking about the afterlife in Scripture. While we have as complete a description as we are going to get of what is popularly termed “heaven and hell,” what we have is actually a composite picture gleaned from several scattered accounts taken from both the Old and New Testaments.

While we have been given enough information about the two destinations to know how to gain the one and shun the other, and while we do not have all the details about either place , we do have some undeniable facts, both places are eternal.

The next thing to be considered is the terminology. There are two words in the Greek New Testament that are translated as “hell” in the King James Version, Gehenna and Hades. In the New American Standard and other modern translations Gehenna is translated as “hell” and Hades is transliterated.

Both terms were borrowed from the popular culture then and mean something quite different in the context of Scripture than their etymology would suggest. There is no interpretive license to assign a meaning of these words apart from their biblical context.

But Rob Bell is right on one point, hell or Hades, is not eternal; it is to be cast into the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:14-15, and the Lake of Fire is a place of eternal torment, Revelation 20:10, et alia. You do not need to take Rob Bell’s word for it, or even mine, it is all right there in the Bible for anyone to read.

Paul warned “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires,” 2 Timothy 4:3.

To those who want to believe there is no eternal torment awaiting disbelievers there will always be a teacher who will accommodate them. The only ones who will be deceived about hell are those who want to be, because they do not care enough to read the Bible for themselves.

Little Charlie Gard

I believe we have all heard the ongoing saga of little Charlie Gard; the baby boy born with a life threatening genetic defect, mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, have waged a legal battle with the British National Health Service in the court system in the United Kingdom

Little Charlie’s parents wanted to take him to the United States where he could receive experimental, but potentially lifesaving treatment for this birth defect that is typically fatal. The courts in England ruled his parents would not be allowed saying they must remain in Britain so he could “die with dignity.”

This court ruling is disturbing on so many levels. Probably the most egregious is this ruling permits the NHS to usurp the right of those who are closest to little Charlie and most concerned for his wellbeing, his parents, to make the most fundamental decisions of life and death for their son.

Critics have been quick to point out that this is one of the dangers of nationalized healthcare; a bureaucracy ultimately makes the most basic health decisions regarding patients and not the patients’ families.

Continuing to consult with doctors about little Charlie’s condition, his parents have decided to discontinue their legal options. Charlie’s health has continued to decline over the course of the lengthy court battle to the point that any treatment now would be too little too late. His parents agreed to let Charlie be taken to hospice.

But the thing I find most disconcerting is the court’s asinine reasoning for denying Charlie’s parents the opportunity to possible save their son; Charlie should be allowed to “die with dignity.” There is no dignity in death.

One might surrender his life for a noble cause, or heroically sacrifice his life to save another, but death itself does not possess an inherent dignity. Solomon said it this way, “surely a live dog is better than a dead lion,” Ecclesiastes 9:4. The lion, fiercely majestic in life, but now dead, is no better or more dignified than a live dog, servile in comparison.

Death is a reminder of our sinful condition and plight. None of us will get out of this life alive. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned,” Romans 5:12.

It is beyond the court’s power to invest death with dignity through its ruling when it denies little Charlie of his life. The court’s feeble attempt to ennoble Charlie’s death is voided by robbing him of his future. I cannot imagine anyone who has gazed even briefly into the eyes of one dead and saw dignity staring back at him.

If the British courts want to kill a baby boy they need to find a better excuse.

 

Postscript: Since this article was written Charlie Gard has died.

Ours is not a political mandate

The Washington Post recently ran an article titled, “Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity.” Having won the Presidency with 81% of the white evangelical vote, it is commonly accepted that it was the religious right that led the way to Trump becoming the leader of the free world.

It was men like Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, that helped catapult Trump to the White House. Evangelicals who supported Trump, like Jeffress, are thought to have Trump’s ear and are seen as having possible significant influence as Trump’s advisers.

Writing for the Post, John Fea says Trump’s faith, questioned while he was campaigning, has not changed since being elected. He goes on to suggest that American Christianity will not change Trump as much as Trump will change American Christianity.

Only time will tell if Fea is a journalist or a prophet, but believers might want to keep their eye on the man who co-authored the book titled The Art of the Deal. Trump has already got what he wanted and it remains to be seen what evangelicals will reap, although the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is a good down payment.

It is in the political arena where we observe the greatest animosity today. The first election I voted in was when Jimmy Carter ran for President, and I do not think I have ever seen the sheer bitterness I have witnessed in this last campaign and seems to persist.

While politics can be a dirty business, I believe Christian citizenship requires believers to thoughtfully consider the competing platforms of each party, and then to prayerfully vote our convictions. But in doing so, we should guard our hearts that we do not allow ourselves to become puppets of any political party.

Billy Graham said several years ago, “The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, important as these are. The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.” Times haven’t changed.

Christianity’s primary mandate is not a political one, Jesus Christ commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you,” Matthew 28:19, 20.

I do not remember the date; it was the seventies. The Florida Baptist State Convention met that year in the Veteran’s Memorial Civic Auditorium in Jacksonville, Florida. Two men I admired were to speak, Vance Havner and Dr. W.A. Criswell.

Dr. Criswell was at that time the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, as Jeffress is today. He delivered a sermon to the pastors present encouraging them in the importance of the Gospel ministry.

While my memory is vague on the date, his words still ring clear, “If I were offered the Presidency of the United States, and left my pulpit to accept, I believe I would be taking a step down.” I hope Jeffress is listening to his predecessor, and pray we do not take a step down.

The Christian response to homosexuality

We live in a time when there are widely contradictory perspectives among Christians and those who claim to be Christians. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., said it well when he wrote we are “living in an age of widespread doctrinal denial and intense theological confusion.”

This dichotomy is most readily seen in the different responses to same-sex issues. Some have capitulated to the propaganda of LGBT activists, and others have faithfully held to a biblical perspective of marriage and human sexuality.

Nominal Christians are lauded by the LGBT community, while genuine Christians are maligned as homophobic, bigoted, and hateful. So what distinguishes a nominal Christian from a genuine Christian?

The simplest definition is a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings: one who lives as He did. If a Christian by definition is one patterning his life after that of Christ then we cannot deny that Christ placed His confidence in the authority of Scripture.

When he was twelve His parents lost Him and later found Him listening to and asking questions of those who taught in the temple. When He was tempted in the wilderness He replied to the devil’s three temptations with “it is written.” In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill,” Matthew 5:17.

Time and again when Jesus was questioned about marriage, the resurrection, His authority to do the things He did, He unwaveringly gave the authority of God’s Word as the authority for what He believed and did. Christ never disobeyed the Scriptures.

The inescapable conclusion is that to be a genuine Christian one must place the same confidence in the authority of Scripture Christ did. Anything less is not Christian. Scripture frames the Christian’s worldview, so that the Christian concept of what is sin, and what is not, is informed by Scripture.

If we are to remain true to the Scriptures as Christ did, we must declare homosexuality to be a sin because that is what the Scriptures declare.

But this is not a license to treat those in the grip of homosexual sin in an unloving way, to bully or shame them, because their sin is no greater than our own. We needed someone to love us when we were in sin and warn us so we could repent and turn in faith to Christ.

This is why we are compelled in God’s Word to love and warn those deceived by homosexuality, because while their sin is no greater than ours, it is no less grave.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators…nor adulterers…nor homosexuals…will inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

It will take more than childish name calling to stop us from warning those who are lost, not because we are bigoted or hateful, but because we love as Christ loved us.

The couple, the baker, and the supreme lawmaker

Jack Phillips is a baker and owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. In 2012 a gay couple asked him to bake a cake for their wedding. He told them the same thing he had to those wanting him to bake a cake for a bachelor’s or Halloween party; “I’m sorry, but I can’t promote messages that violate my beliefs, though I’d be happy to sell you anything else.”

Jack took the words of Christ seriously. When Jesus was questioned about divorce He replied, “Have you not read that He who created them from 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?” Matthew 19:4-5. Since the beginning of time marriage has been one man and one woman. Jesus said it; Jack believed it.

The couple reported Jack to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and it effectively shut down his cake making that represented forty percent of his business. He has been battling for the right to run his business according to his deeply held convictions ever since. Colorado claims Jack violated the couple’s civil rights; Jack says Colorado violated his free exercise of religion.

Jack is going to get his day in court. The case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is on the docket for the next session of the Supreme Court. Since the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, that in effect legalized same-sex marriage, the First Amendment’s protection of the “free exercise” of religion has been questioned.

But in his majority opinion Justice Anthony Kennedy addresses the First Amendment protection. He wrote, “Finally, it must be recognized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

The Court seems to be saying that granting same-sex couples the right to marry is not a right to force another to abandon their right to freely exercise their beliefs. The right to marry does not obligate another citizen to compromise their faith to help you celebrate or secure that right.

In the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges a number of states introduced legislation similar to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect those persons who wish to practice their Christian faith. Incidentally, that bill was signed into law by then Governor of Indiana Mike Pence.

One person who objected to Indiana’s law commented he was against it because he did not want to be forced to live by “Christian rules.” Here’s a news flash, Christians are not the ones trying to make someone bake them a cake.