Looking for Loopholes

His stage name was W. C. Fields.  In the 1930’s and 40’s he parlayed his Vaudeville experience into a film career.  Renowned for his salacious levity, he was once asked if he had ever read the Bible.  Holding little sacred and always looking for a laugh Fields replied, “Yes, I was looking for loopholes.”

There are some who approach the Scriptures in this same way.  Rather than take it for what it plainly says they search for reasons to ignore or change what it means.  The recent publication of the Queen James Bible is a case in point.  The anonymous editors have said, “We edited the Bible [the King James Version] to prevent homophobic interpretations.  We made changes to eight verses.”

The Queen James Bible editors have raised the issues of translation, interpretation, and editing of the King James Version Bible, but in a very biased way.  Their focus was those eight passages of Scripture that address the practice of homosexuality directly in the Old and New Testaments.  Time and space will not permit a thorough review of each verse they have challenged, so I have chosen the first to appear in Scripture as an example of their redactions.

One of the eight passages they find offensive is found in Genesis 19:5, “And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night?  Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.”  The Queen James Version editors write regarding this verse, “We side with most Bible scholars who understand the story of Sodom and Gomorra to be about bullying strangers.”  They are going to have to cite who these “Bible scholars” are, because I do not know of a single credible Bible scholar who would say the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was about bullying strangers.  That misinterpretation is about as credible as the misspelling of Gomorrah.”

If one looks up the word “Sodomite” it means “an inhabitant of Sodom” or “a person who engages in sodomy.”  Sodomy is defined as “copulation with a member of the same sex.”  I didn’t read anything in the dictionary about “bullying strangers.”  I may have inadvertently made lexicographers and dictionaries their next targets.  My point is the infamy of Sodom is historically associated with its sexual practices and not its attitude toward strangers.  But if one chooses to rewrite the Bible rewriting history is not a problem.

Regarding this verse the QJV editors have reworded it to read, “And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night?  Bring them out unto us, that we may rape and humiliate them.”

The words “rape” and “humiliate” are not found anywhere in the KJV biblical text.  Neither are they found in the biblical Hebrew text.  Forced sex is addressed descriptively as in Deuteronomy 22:25, “But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lie with her shall die.”

I fail to see how this rewording casts a favorable light on the Sodomites, and adds no illuminate to the situation.  I am quite sure the two messengers of God would not have consented to the overtures of the Sodomites, had it gotten that far, and they would have assuredly been sodomized.  Sodomized is defined as “to subject to sodomy” or “commit sodomy upon.”  That does not sound consensual.

Of course, the QJV editors’ implication is clear, homosexuality in itself is not wrong, but in the case of rape it is.  By adding words to the passage it can be interpreted that homosexuality is only wrong in the same situational context as heterosexuality is wrong, in this case rape.  Granted, the historical view of sodomy is no doubt taken from the biblical account, but that account has not been challenged until now.  Believer and unbeliever alike have accepted this historical definition for millennia.

While admitting their purpose is to “prevent homophobic interpretations” they go on to say, “the Bible is still filled with inequality and even contradiction that we have not addressed.”  They seem to be content to correct only one of the Bible’s many flaws while ignoring the others they say exist.  If the Bible is fraught with error why bother?  They are merely reserving the option to disagree with the Bible when it disagrees with their lifestyle.

The QJV editors are doing more than rewriting the Scriptures to produce a biased gay-friendly Bible.  Like W. C. Fields they are looking for loopholes, loopholes that do not exist.

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Have we traded truth for terror?

Last week I wrote about the tragedy that transpired in Newtown, Connecticut.  I wrote about Mike Huckabee’s initial remarks concerning the shooting.  I thought he had gone too far when he said this type of carnage is to be expected when “we have systematically removed God from our schools.”  I referenced the Bath School Massacre of 1927 which killed more children and adults, and happened long before Bible reading and the Lord’s Prayer were supposedly removed by the Abington School District v. Schempp case ruling in 1963.  Huckabee issued a more balanced statement later that accurately expressed a biblical perspective of the situation.

Now James Dobson of Focus on the Family has weighed in on the subject.  In a broadcast this past Monday he said, “I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and God Almighty and I think He has allowed judgment to fall upon us.  I think that’s what’s going on.”  I believe Dobson should have thought on it some more.

Jesus warns us about rushing to make hasty condemnations.  Pilate had executed some Galileans and Jesus asked, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:2-3).”  The evil that man does to his fellow man is seen throughout human history and is certainly not absent today.

The evil unleashed on Newtown, Connecticut, by Adam Lanza was a manifestation of the unrestrained sin nature.  The same nature is in each of us, but most of us control our darker side.  Cain possessed this nature. When he had contemplated killing his brother Abel out of anger and envy, God counseled him “sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7).”  Like Cain, Adam Lanza failed to hold the inner evil in check.

If I were to believe like Dobson, that this massacre was an act of God’s judgment, then I am forced to believe that God in His displeasure with our nation used a madman to focus His wrath on the twenty-seven victims, some of whom may have been Christians and twenty were children.  Even when God’s judgment was visited on Sodom and Gomorrah He did not consume the righteous with the guilty.

Dobson cited the sins of abortion and the acceptance of homosexuality as inviting the judgment of God.  He is right to call these sins and surely there will be a reckoning to come.  But if we continue to abort the next generation and sanction sexual practices that cannot produce the next generation God will not have to lift His holy hand, we will destroy ourselves.

Clearly there has been an erosion of the Christian worldview and the Christian consensus this nation was founded upon, and upon which it subsequently became great.  That common weltanschauung appears to no longer exist.  The killings in Newtown are a sign of the times.  Jesus commenting on the end times said, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6).”  These signs will accompany the apostasy of the end times.  The principle seems to be as men turn from God, they turn on one another.

This seems to be what happened in Newtown.  Adam Lanza was not turning to God when he turned on the students and staff of one of the most vulnerable of public institutions, an elementary school.  This is the kind of godless climate our culture has fostered.

In our blind pursuit of pleasure we have removed the moral roadblocks in our society.  We do not want to be reminded of what is right as we do what is wrong.  Like the words from a song by Don Francisco we are “rushing helter-skelter to destruction with our fingers in our ears.”  The judgment of God will not be seen in the actions of a crazed killer, we will witness His judgment as He allows our nation to collapse under the weight of its own decadence.

The sixth commandment of the Decalogue declares “You shall not murder.”  But we believe it is un-Constitutional for the Ten Commandments to be displayed on the walls of school corridors, and now we have murderers stalking those same hallways.  Have we traded truth for terror?

God Was Watching

This is difficult to write about, but even harder to ignore, because the evil that manifested this past Friday in Newtown, Connecticut has gripped the attention of our nation.  All other news stories seem to fade into the background as the information from this fresh tragedy unfolds.

Early last Friday morning Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother Nancy in their home.  He then took three of her guns and drove her car to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he shot and killed twenty students and six adults before turning one of the weapons on himself.

This murderous act is made more profoundly senseless when one considers Adam did not leave a note of explanation, and according to witnesses, did not utter a word as he walked into the school and opened fire.  At present, his motives are a mystery.  In the aftermath we try and understand and we ask ourselves why?  The answer to such a question will not alleviate our sense of loss and grief.  Knowledge is a sorry comforter.

A relative said Adam was “obviously not well.”  That seems to be an understatement in the wake of the death and destruction he dealt out last Friday.  This leads us to another question, why is it we seem to have no shortage of suicidal psychos bent on taking as many people with them as they can get in their sights?

Last Friday evening Neil Cavuto of Fox News interviewed former Arkansas governor and ordained minister Mike Huckabee about the shootings in Newtown.  Cavuto said a tragedy like this one causes some to ask, “How could God let this happen?”  Huckabee replied, “We ask why there’s violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.  Should we be so surprised that schools have become a place of carnage?”  That was a bad answer.

The deadliest school massacre in the history of the United States occurred on, May 18, 1927.  For the previous year farmer and school board treasurer of the Bath School District, Michigan, Andrew Kehoe had deposited hundreds of pounds of pyrotol, an explosive incendiary, and dynamite in the basement of the Bath Consolidated School.  On that morning, he beat his wife Nellie to death and firebombed his farm buildings.  A detonator ignited the dynamite and pyrotol in the basement and the north wing of the school exploded.  A similar bomb in the south wing of the school failed to detonate.  Arriving at the school Kehoe called the school superintendent over and detonated a bomb inside his vehicle piled high with scrap metal.  In all fifty-eight people were injured and forty-five were killed, including thirty-eight school children ages 7-11.

Since most believers think the systematic removal of God from our schools began in 1963 with the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Abington School District v. Schempp, when the Lord’s Prayer and Bible reading were supposedly removed from the public schools, I guess God was still there in 1927.  That is using Huckabee’s logic.

First, the SCOTUS ruling in 1963 prevents an agent of the state (i.e., a school teacher) from leading school children in Bible reading and prayer.  There is nothing in the United States Constitution or any judicial ruling that prevents a teacher or student from bringing a Bible to school to read or praying during their free time, or saying grace over their meals, etcetera.  It is silly to think we can banish God from anywhere.

Second, God has permitted mankind to exercise their free will to do good or evil since Adam and Eve, and when Cain killed Abel.  Every human is created in the image of God, but that image is marred by our inherited sin nature.  Ergo, every individual is capable of great evil and great good.  God is not responsible for the choices we make, we are.  And we will give an account for our actions, because His “eyes are in every place, watching the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3).”

Finally, Gail Hoxie of Winsted, Connecticut summed it up when she commented on those children who died.  She wrote, “There is that consolation that they are on their way to a beautiful place without pain and with joy and light.”  I don’t think Adam Lanza is headed for the same destination, because God was watching.

Faith and science, it doesn’t have to be either/or

In an article entitled Science vs. God: Does Progress Trump Faith? Wynne Parry shares some of the points made in a debate held on December 5, 2012, in New York.  The debate pitted Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, and Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, against Dinesh D’Souza, a self-styled Christian apologist, and Ian Hutchinson, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT.

At the outset let me make a couple of points that should be clear. First, the existence of God does not hinge on the outcome of a human brain brawl.  His existence transcends human debate.  It is like two ants fighting over whether or not I exist, the outcome will have no bearing on the fact of my existence.  A debate is not the final arbiter of truth.

Second, there is this assumption that faith in God precludes the ability to be scientifically objective, and that is absurd.  Sir Isaac Newton is considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist that ever lived and was a devout Christian.  I hold there is no contradiction between true belief and true science, both are compatible.  The purpose of faith is to better understand God, and the purpose of science is to better understand His creation.  While these are two different paths, they will ultimately arrive at the same destination.  Past and present conflicts between faith and science have arisen because of a failure to understand each other’s place in the scheme of things.

I could address the various comments made by each team and discuss the merits, or the lack thereof, of each, but that would not bring us to the heart of the matter.  D’Souza made a statement to which Krauss responded and these two statements bring us to the crux of the issue.

D’Souza said, “The questions to which God is the answer are not scientific questions.”  He goes on to point out that faith tries to answer the “why” of things and science tries to answer the “how” of things.  Krauss asked a trenchant question, “Why, presupposes purpose, what if there is no purpose?  Does there need to be a purpose?”

Krauss framed the issue as being fundamentally teleological.  Is there purpose in what we observe?  If there is purpose that would infer an intelligent design of the universe by an intelligent designer.  Simply put, if things have a purpose, that purpose comes from a creator.

About a month ago I wrote an article about how scientists cannot seem to avoid explaining natural phenomena from a teleological perspective.  Boston University had a team of psychology researchers ask various scientists to evaluate explanations for natural phenomena.  When these geologists, physicists, and chemists from schools such as Yale, MIT, and Harvard were asked to explain natural processes they received the following type of responses.  “The Earth has an ozone layer in order to protect it from UV light” or “Trees produce oxygen so that animals can breathe.”

These kind of teleological or purpose-based answers indicate there is “a bias for purpose-based reasoning that even scientists can’t escape.”  Associate professor of psychology at BU Deborah Kelemen stated, “Even though advanced scientific training can reduce acceptance of scientifically inaccurate teleological explanations, it cannot erase a tenacious early-emerging human tendency to find purpose in nature.  It seems that our minds may be naturally more geared to religion than science.”

Krauss argues the idea of purpose in the natural order is questionable, but his colleagues cannot seem to rid themselves of purposeful language.  They intellectually deny the existence of God, and then lapse into the unpardonable sin of godless science by speaking about nature as being full of purpose.  They seem to fulfill Paul’s words, they cannot help referring to nature as having purpose, but deny God and “suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).”

Coincidentally, Rick Warren is promoting his best-selling book, over 32 million copies sold, The Purpose Driven Life on its tenth anniversary of being published.  I wonder how Krauss and others of his ilk explain the longing in the human heart to understand why we are here.  How does science explain the evolution of abstract thought?  From where did the concepts of purpose, morality, etcetera, come from?  How did we come to conceive the abstract concept of eternity that is not a part of our evolutionary finite experience?

While Krauss and his buddies are thinking on that I’ll close with this thought.  I have said religion without science is blind faith, and science without religion is godless knowledge.  Mankind can ill afford either.  When it comes to faith and science it doesn’t have to be either/or, it could be both.

It can’t be done in two jumps

Angus T. Jones is probably better known as Jake Harper on the popular sitcom Two and a Half Men.  Starring on the show since the age of nine he is the “half man” in the lineup.  He has been on the show for the last ten years.  It is reported he makes $350,000 an episode.

Jones had begun attending a Seventh Day Adventist church and during a revival was “born again.”  In the wake of his conversion he was interviewed by his pastor.  During the recorded video interview Jones made a number of statements that do not reflect well on the sitcom’s content.  In the video he encouraged viewers to “please stop watching it and filling your head with filth.”

I have never viewed an episode of Two and a Half Men, but it is admittedly “laced with sexual innuendos.”  It is only reasonable to assume that salacious levity takes the serious edge off of acts of fornication and adultery.  It is hard to view sexual sins seriously when they are treated so lightheartedly.  It is difficult to think something that is laughable, is damnable.  Herein lays the danger.

Jones had more to say, “If I am doing any harm, I don’t want to be here,” referring to his part in the show.  “I don’t want to be contributing to the enemy’s plan…You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that.  I know I can’t.”  Jones clearly questions the content of the sitcom and his participation in it.

Jones’ family believes he has been brainwashed by a cult.  They have not explained their reasoning.  I have serious doctrinal disagreements with the Seventh Day Adventists, but I would hesitate calling them a cult.  Possibly the family thinks Jones was obviously made delusional by the denomination, because who in his right mind would jeopardize a successful acting career making $350,000 per episode.

Actor and born again Christian Stephen Baldwin has defended Jones.  In a recent interview on Good Morning America Baldwin said, “It sound like Angus is having an authentic experience with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s a serious thing.”  Baldwin went on to say, “A real, true walk of Christianity is very difficult, quite radical.  It seems to me he was a young man when he started and now he’s kind of come into his own and he’s connected with his pastor.”

This past Tuesday Jones issued a statement about his comments after the interview aired.  Jones said, “I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed.  I never intended that.”  Jones is apparently conflicted about his comments.  Why?

Did Jones say anything that was not true given his fresh perspective of reality?  I did not see the interview, but in his reported comments I did not read anywhere that he disparaged his colleagues or was unappreciative of the opportunity to be on the show.  Jones was merely questioning his participation in this program from the advantage of his new conversion.  All of us at some time have reviewed our lives in retrospect from a newly formed perspective.  I saw no need for an apology.  His comments were understandable.

Maybe Jones thought he was being perceived as unappreciative.  Baldwin thinks so, “He didn’t want to offend Chuck Lorre or any of the people from the show or be disrespectful, but I think he means what he says.”  I hope so.  I would hate to think his apology was made because he feared losing that $350,000 an episode.

Many a professing Christian was compromised the truth of God’s Word for a successful career in the entertainment industry.  There are few examples of those in show business who have sacrificed in their careers to be true to God.

Jesus proclaimed, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth (Matthew 6:24, NASB).”

Baldwin was correct when he said, “A real, true walk of Christianity is very difficult, quite radical.”  It is quite radical.  I hope Angus realizes that.  Compromising with our culture while trying to remain godly is like trying to jump over a mud hole in two jumps without getting muddy, it can’t be done.