To Be Honest

Drunkenness is a sin.  The Scriptures teach it.  This is not a matter of much debate in Christian circles.  Drunkenness has had and continues to have a pestiferous effect on our society.  That is an undeniable fact. 

But the Scriptures do not teach abstinence.  There are some occasions where imbibing is forbidden, priests when they were performing their duties (Leviticus 10:9), and a king when rendering judgment (Proverbs 31:4-5).  There are also places where drinking wine is encouraged (Proverbs 31:6-7, Ecclesiastes 9:7; 10:19).

The reason I am writing about the matter of drunkenness and drinking is because of an article that appeared in the Christian Post last week and again this week by one of their columnists Mark H. Creech.  Mark is also the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.

Mark maintains “that the wine Jesus miraculously provided at the wedding in Cana was not fermented.”  Mark believes the word “wine” (Greek, oinos) used throughout the account in John 2:1-11 could refer to “non-alcoholic wine.”  Since “non-alcoholic wine” is an oxymoron, I will exchange it for what he is actually inferring, it was grape juice.

I normally ignore egregious misrepresentations of Scripture.  I trust the average believer understands when an interpretation is taken out of context.  But Mark’s repeated fouls warrant a word of correction.

I will not address his sophistic arguments; I am just going to do what Mark tacitly suggests.  Since wine, according to Mark, means grape juice in this passage, we will replace the word wine with grape juice and see if that makes sense.

In John 2:10, the headwaiter says “Every man serves the good grape juice first, and when people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer grape juice; but you have kept the good grape juice until now.”  I did not know there were different grades of grape juice in Jesus’ day, but if that was the case, how does drinking good grape juice make one more agreeable to drink a poorer grade of grape juice?

If we continue replacing the Greek word oinos with the term grape juice, Ephesians 5:18 would read, “And do not get drunk with grape juice.”  That is some potent grape juice.  Its potency is seen in First Timothy 3:3 where pastors are enjoined to be “not addicted to grape juice” (the word here in the Greek translated “not addicted to wine” is a Greek compound word, par + oinos).  So when we look at this grape juice in biblical context, this grape juice that Jesus made from water is addictive and can make one drunk.

It does not take a seminary trained exegete to see the simple truth about wine in John 2:1-11 and elsewhere in Scripture.  But that is not the point I am trying to make here.  I do not care if every drop of alcohol were to evaporate from the face of the earth; I have no problem with eliminating a potential source of misery and pain.

But when we pervert the clear truth of any passage in the Bible to suit a personal prejudice, we cause those to whom we witness to doubt us when we proclaim the problem of sin, the need to repent, and how to be saved.  If I am not honest about the teaching in every verse, how can I expect anyone to trust me to be honest with any verse?

The late John Gresham Machen was once a Princeton theologian and a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  As “the foremost conservative biblical scholar of his day,” he was nominated to be professor of apologetics at Princeton Seminary in 1926.  His nomination required confirmation by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), usually a formality.  But the General Assembly refused to confirm him.  Its members were “rabidly prohibitionist” and Machen had said while drunkenness was clearly condemned in Scripture it was equally clear the Scriptures did not teach abstinence.

Forced out of the seminary and church, he went on to found Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) went on to embrace homosexuality and ordain homosexuals.  When we begin to deny the clear teaching of Scripture we find ourselves on a very slippery slope.

The first importance to me when I approach any passage in the Bible is to be true to the clear and plain meaning of the text.  We have a responsibility to be honest.


The Evolution of Speculation

He seemed to be posing for a portrait.  The first picture I came across on the website had him staring at the camera.  He wasn’t smiling; his face seemed frozen in a perpetual frown, but I am sure it was not his fault.  It was no doubt genetic.

The completion of his DNA mapping had made the news.  His story was number one on National Geographic’s top ten headlines.  It seems the Los Angeles Times carried a story about the completion of his genome sequence.  It was recently published by a research scientist with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts Jessica Alfoldi in the journal Nature.

Let me introduce you to the coelacanth, an ancient fish thought to be extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period, more than 65 million years ago.  This is why the coelacanth has been dubbed the “living fossil.”  Fossilized remains of the coelacanth are numerous.

Based solely on the fossilized remains, absent the presence of any sarcous material (the soft tissues of the body such as skin, muscles, internal organs, etc., which typically do not survive fossilization) ichthyologists once theorized the coelacanth was an intermediate life form (i.e., missing link) between fish and amphibians.  The coelacanth had three pair of ventral fins fasten to lobes that appeared to be legs beginning to form.  They speculated the coelacanth lived in coastal marshes, could walk on land, and had gills and lungs.

Then in 1938 a native fisherman caught one in the waters between South Africa and Madagascar.  Ichthyologists’ theories about the coelacanth collapsed faster than a house of cards hit by a leaf blower.  Here is the first and it’s a biggy, the coelacanth is not extinct.  Oops!  In 1988, Hans Fricke working for National Geographic photographed the coelacanth in its natural habitat.  The coelacanth was discovered to be a pelagic, that is, it is a fish that lives in the deep water of the open seas, not in shallow coastal marshes.  Fricke observed (take note of this word observed) the coelacanth swam everywhere it went never attempting to “walk” with its three pair of ventral “limbs” even on the ocean floor.  Further study revealed the coelacanth is a true fish with gills and no lungs.

Scientists are very good at reporting what they discover through observation, but many times their speculative conclusions are more like science fiction than scientific fact.  Why?  Science is the discipline of observation, not speculation.  When scientists talk about things from the distant past they are talking about things that are unobservable.  It is easy to theorize about a dead fossil, but a living specimen can certainly change one’s view.  Well, maybe not.

The article in the Los Angeles Times goes on to report, “It didn’t take long after the African coelacanth’s discovery for biologists to speculate about its relationship to the ancient lobe-finned fishes that eventually evolved to become land vertebrates.”  It would appear the scientific community did not breathe a collective sigh over the mistakes of past speculations, before making new speculations.

The apostle Paul wrote, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5.  There is a difference between a fact and a speculation.  Paul is warning us not to forsake what we know about God as revealed in the Scriptures based on an unproven speculation.

That does not seem unreasonable to me.  What does seem unreasonable to me is to blindly embrace the speculations of evolutionists when those speculations have been repeatedly proven to be wrong.

The basic premise of modern science regarding the existence of mankind is the human race is the random product, of a mindless process, that began by accident.  The Scriptures maintain we are the divine product, of an intelligent design, that began with purpose.  The first view is based on speculation, the second on revelation.  I will not forsake what has been revealed for what has been speculated.

Neither of these views can be proven absolutely, but I do not intend to embrace speculations that have been repeatedly corrected, for the revelation in Scripture which has withstood the need for correction for several millennia.  I do believe in evolution, since science is constantly evolving.  In fact, the surest evidence for the existence of evolution can be clearly seen in the evolving speculations of science.

Who is Kermit Gosnell?

Have you heard of Kermit Gosnell?  Dr. Gosnell opened an abortion clinic in Philadelphia in 1979 named the Women’s Medical Society.  On February 18, 2010, it was raided by the FBI because of reported sales of illegal prescriptions.  What they discovered in their raid is why Gosnell is no longer in the clinic, but sits in a Philadelphia courtroom charged with seven counts of first degree murder.

During the initial search, the FBI found “blood on the floor.  A stench of urine filled the air.  A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs.  Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood stained blankets.  All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff.”  It was reported to authorities that just a few months before the raid a woman had died at the clinic.

Statements were taken from 58 witnesses and an investigation began.  The grand jury report was revealing.  “Instruments were not sterile.  Equipment was rusty and outdated.  Oxygen equipment was covered with dust and had not been inspected.  The same corroded suction tubing used for abortions was the only tubing available for oral airways if assistance for breathing was needed.  There was no functioning resuscitation or even monitoring equipment, except for a single blood pressure cuff.”  The search team also discovered “fetal remains haphazardly stored throughout the clinic – in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons and even in cat food containers.”

Although Pennsylvania law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks of gestation, Gosnell admitted to one of the detectives 10 to 20 percent of the abortions were past the 24 week gestational period.  Some of the fetal remains had surgical incisions at the base of the skulls.

Steven Massof, an employee and witness, testified the incision at the base of the skull was the result of “snipping.”  When labor is induced to perform a late term abortions, you get living, breathing, squirming babies.  Massof said Gosnell taught staff to insert a pair of scissors into the base of the skull and cut the spinal cord.  Gosnell told them “snipping” was a way of “ensuring fetal demise.”

When asked how many “snippings” had occurred over the years, Massof said “hundreds.”  Massof described the procedure as “literally a beheading.  It is separating the brain from the body.”  The only reason Gosnell was not charged with more murders is because he had destroyed the files.  But investigators were able to document some cases.

Baby Boy A was almost 30 weeks of gestational age when the 17 year old mother sought out the Women’s Medical Society.  Her baby weighed about six pounds and was breathing and moving when Dr. Gosnell came in and severed his spine.  Gosnell later joked the baby was big enough “to walk me to the bus stop.”  Baby Boy B was found frozen in a plastic gallon jug and was approximately 28 weeks old.  Baby Boy C had been “moving and breathing for 20 minutes before an assistant came in and cut the spinal cord” like Gosnell had shown them.  The grand jury report said these were not the worst cases.

The reader may ask weren’t there reports to the authorities.  Indeed there were, for years complaints had been filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  Warnings were issued but no follow-up inspections or investigations were conducted or legal action taken against the Women’s Medical Society.  Then in 1993 the Pennsylvania Department of Health stopped inspecting abortion clinics for political reasons.  As far as the PDOH was concerned out of sight, meant out of mind.

Still there were complaints.  One doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia hand delivered a complaint that several patients he had referred to Gosnell had come to him afterwards with the same venereal disease.  The Delaware County Medical examiner sent an official report to PDOH about an abortion Gosnell had performed on a 14 year old with a 30 week fetus, and there was an official report of the death of a woman named Karnamaya Mongar.  But PDOH was unmoved.

It seems the press is ignoring these abortion atrocities like the PDOH ignored the complaints.  I guess it is not as important as a coffee-maker reducing the price of its bagged coffee, because that was in the news.

The Scriptures teach “children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” Psalm 127:3.  You probably won’t see that in the news either.

Legality v. Morality

World renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson is a committed Christian.  This past March 26, Fox News’ Sean Hannity asked Carson in a televised interview his opinion on marriage.  Carson replied “Marriage is between a man and a woman…no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality,…get to change the definition…”  He has been roundly excoriated by some in the student body of his alma mater John Hopkins University.

These students are calling for his withdrawal as the commencement speaker at their graduation ceremony because his “values are incongruous with the values of John Hopkins and deeply offensive to a large portion of our student body.”  Paul Rothman who is the Dean of Medical Faculty at John Hopkins agreed with the students saying Carson had used “hurtful, offensive language…when conveying a personal opinion.”

Carson is being accused of equating homosexuality with bestiality, but he didn’t.  He simply said none of the following groups can change the definition of marriage, and used those two groups, among others, as examples.  But those who are adamantly promoting the gay agenda will not allow facts to cloud the issue as they call anyone who speaks against the immorality they press a bigot.  Those who cried for tolerance have not proved to be intolerant themselves when it comes to those who disagree with them.

I will say what Carson did not.  Any sexual act outside of the marital covenant between a man and a woman is a perversion of the biblical purpose for sex and is an abomination.  That includes homosexuality and bestiality.  In fact, the verse in the Scriptures that condemns homosexuality as an abomination (Leviticus 18:22) is followed by the verse condemning bestiality (Leviticus 18:23).  Clearly the two acts are sinful in the eyes of a Holy God.

In 2003 the United States Supreme Court struck down the sodomy statutes in the State of Texas in Lawrence v. Texas.  The majority opinion was written by Anthony Kennedy who is considered the swing vote in the two cases addressing homosexual issues currently before the Court.  In a recent article Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary commented that Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence argued that moral opposition to homosexuality was not a rational basis for the establishment of a law.

That is sheer nonsense.  A moral sense of what is right and what is wrong undergirds every law on the books in America.  If we remove the moral underpinnings of our legal system we will be inviting anarchy.

Polygamy was outlawed by a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court in 1878 in Reynolds v. United States and forced a showdown with the State of Utah over the issue, because it was commonly held to be immoral.  But if homosexuality cannot be outlawed for immoral reasons, then there is no legal rationale to prohibit a resurgence of polygamy, or stop the rise of bestiality, or to prevent pedophilia, or necrophilia, and the list goes on.

I fear the faulty legal reasoning of the Supreme Court led by Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence has placed this nation’s legal system on a slippery slope into a moral morass we may not soon extricate ourselves from.

Since Senator Rod Portman came out in favor of gay rights after his son Will admitted to him he was gay, social conservatives have been dropping like dominos.  But morality does not change merely because a family member practices immorality.  If Will Portman had lied about something, it would not suddenly become alright to tell a lie just because he is Rod Portman’s son.

I do not hate those who practice immorality.  It is out of a genuine love for them and their welfare that I warn them about their sin.  Sodom and Gomorrah was a road sign saying you are going the wrong way; they were a warning.  Because homosexuality is a sin there is hope for the penitent in Christ.

We are constantly told if we fail to support gay rights and marriage equality, we may find ourselves on the wrong side of history.  But Isaiah has warned us “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.”  I will take my chances with history, before I would be willing to find myself on the wrong side of God, because the real Supreme Court doesn’t convene down here.