The Real Supreme Court

This past week in a pair of decisions the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the voter-mandated Proposition 8 prohibiting same-sex marriage in California, and the Defense of Marriage Act passed by the United States Congress.  There is cause for concern.

The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are known collectively as the Bill of Rights and were ratified December 15, 1791.  They were adopted less than three years after the U. S. Constitution (March 4, 1789) to secure the rights and freedoms the people had come to enjoy in the New World without government interference.

The last one, the Tenth Amendment, reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Marriage is not mentioned in the Constitution which means Congress has no right to act on the matter, and marriage is “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

DOMA was enacted with no constitutional foundation.  Congress has no right according to the Constitution to interfere in the matter of marriage that has been legally and traditionally the express right of state legislatures and the citizens of the respective states.  By law, DOMA should have been struck down because it went against the express intent of the Tenth Amendment.  It wasn’t.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinions for the Court in both cases, struck DOMA down because it showed “both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.”  Instead of making an objective legal ruling he chose to impose his subjective moral beliefs in his decision.

Proposition 8 is another matter.  Proposition 8 was a ballot initiative adopted by a majority vote of the electorate, the people of California, and was in clear keeping with the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.  Constitutionally speaking, this should have been a no-brainer.  But the Court ruled the people of California who initiated the suit had no standing before the Court.  Kennedy once again ignored the provisions of the Tenth Amendment.  If the people of one of these United States does not have legal standing to address their Supreme Court who does?

While the moral implications of these decisions will be both pervasive and pestiferous with a host of unintended consequences, there is another dangerous precedent.  Because the Court refused to uphold the clear language of the Tenth Amendment, it has compromised its credibility to be the objective arbiter of the Constitution.  It could ultimately undermine our democratic processes and usher in an age of anarchy.  The Court essentially said the law does not matter when compared to its moral beliefs.

To assert as Kennedy has that there is no moral basis for law opens a wide door.  States that do not allow same-sex marriages will now have their laws challenged.  If it is immoral, as opposed to illegal, for Congress to outlaw same-sex marriage, what about the states?  In this respect three of the states where same-sex marriage is legal, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa, preempted Kennedy when their respective state supreme courts overthrew laws adopted by elected representatives of the people in direct contradiction to the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution just like the U. S. Supreme Court did.  This decision will have a domino effect.

Peter Singer Professor of Bioethics at Princeton says there is no moral restraint to bestiality as long as there is consent, think about that.  Morality is the basis for laws prohibiting polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, etcetera.  To deprive the law of morality is to do away with the law.

Christians have been lambasted for being loveless, bigoted, and intolerant.  That is not the case.  It is our love for God that causes us to love what He loves, and to warn those who reject His loving guidance in what is best for mankind.  But the Church will survive as it has in every culture that turns its back on God, as she continues to help others to save themselves from themselves.

In Proverbs 29:26 we read, “Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord.”  The biblical message is clear; man may forsake justice, but God will not.  This is not the last word.  The real Supreme Court does not convene down here.

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I thank God…

When I returned from Vietnam in January 1972, I soon recognized the need to be in church again.  My short stint in the military was not conducive to the Christian walk and I had strayed from the faith in which I had been raised.  I began to take my Christianity seriously and got involved in my home church.  It was a Southern Baptist Church.

In retrospect, the Charismatic Movement was in full swing, but I was oblivious to such controversies.  So when I began to ask questions about things I read in the book of Acts and Paul’s writings like in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14, I was surprised by the animosity they generated.

There were those who believed the gifts of the Holy Spirit as listed in chapter twelve of First Corinthians had ceased being practiced in the Church.  They were called cessationists.  Those who believed these gifts were still operating in the Church were called continuationists.  I remember there were excesses on both sides of the issue.

I remember reading several prominent cessationist theologians’ commentaries on the subject.  None of them agreed on what “speaking in tongues” was, but they all agreed on what it was not, it wasn’t for the Church today.  I thought then as I do now; if you do not know what it is, how can you say what it isn’t?

Then there were the excesses of the continuationists.  Some believed you could teach someone else to speak in tongues.  It was not uncommon to see a seeker come forward at invitation time to have hands laid on them to receive the “gift of tongues” and then have two prayer partners coaching the candidate; one exhorting him to “hang on” and the other telling him to “let go.”

This controversy is still with us today.  Pastor John MacArthur is planning a “Strange Fire” conference in October taking its title from Leviticus 10:1-2 where Aaron’s sons Nadab an Abihu died for their blasphemy.  He says speaking in tongues today is the equivalent of the strange fire offered by Aaron’s sons, it is blasphemous.  Mark Driscoll, whose theology is reformed, says cessationists like MacArthur are wrong.

I take seminary courses online.  One of the courses I have completed is Biblical Hermeneutics.  Part of this class involved the professor giving us a verse or two each week to apply the interpretive principles we were learning.  Our text gave us a five part formula called the “interpretive journey.”

One week our instructor gave us 1 Corinthians 14:18 where Paul writes, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all.”  I do not recall any of my classmates addressing this verse.  They gave their view of other verses in the chapter and elsewhere in the Bible but I do not recall a single comment directly predicated on this passage.  For some reason my fellow students were taking the “interpretive detour.”

When I asked one of my classmates why he did not address verse 18 he said he did not understand the verse.  I told him simple semantics and syntax, elementary English grammar, suggested some meaning.  He reiterated he did not understand the verse.

I said “Paul validates the practice of speaking in tongues by his own example.”  This seemed to be a simple interpretation without addressing the issue of whether or not the passage was descriptive or prescriptive for today.  I don’t recall any comments on my interpretation.  I do not know if there is confusion on the subject, or if people fear to discuss it because of the strong feelings it arouses.

I have said experience alone (or the lack of it) is a poor hermeneutic.  We do not interpret the Scriptures solely by our experiences, but we can interpret our experiences by the Scriptures.  I think those who have not experienced “speaking in tongues” are the ones most confused about it.  All they need to do is read the Scriptures for themselves and pray about it.  The Spirit of God will make all things clear.  Those who are confused are listening to too many other people.

Speaking in tongues will not save you; it did not save me.  I cannot teach someone else how to do it; no one taught me.  But I can echo the words of the apostle Paul, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” 1 Corinthians 14:18.

A long, long time ago…

“A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”  No, this is not the introduction to another Star Wars saga.  It is an introduction to the theory of Directed Panspermia that was once espoused by Francis Harry Compton Crick.  Dr. Crick was the English born molecular biologist, who along with James D. Watson co-discovered deoxyribonucleic acid known more commonly as DNA.

At one point in his studies Dr. Crick, who believed in evolution, theorized that the current complexity of human DNA could not have evolved from simpler forms of DNA over the last 3.6 billion years life is believed to have existed here on earth.  So Dr. Crick hypothesized that more than 3.6 billion years ago (a long, long time ago) higher evolved intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe (in a galaxy far, far away) directed sperm pods to various planets in the universe capable of supporting life and earth was one of them.  That in a nutshell (pun intended) is the theory of Directed Panspermia.

Since there is no definitive evidence that life, much less intelligent life, exists anywhere else in the universe this theory has fallen into disrepute.  Dr. Crick later forsook the theory himself.  But the exogenic theory of life, that is, the belief that life began elsewhere in the universe and was transferred to earth, appears to have a life of its own.

It is reported that a chromatic spectrum of the nearby Orion nebula transmitted from Europe’s Herschel Space Observatory shows the existence of “life-enabling molecules” there.  Specifically, the compounds of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, sulfur oxide, sulfur dioxide and water are present.  Of these, the presence of water is significant.  Water’s nickname “liquid of life” is assigned with good reason.  Without water life, at least as we know it here on earth, cannot exist.  Therefore, its presence, while not direct proof of life, infers the possibility of life.

While scientist rejoice in a new discovery, evolutionist exult in the hope their theory of life elsewhere in the universe will be vindicated.  Many of them and some of you may think this would be the final nail in creationism’s coffin.  Think again.

First, Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Assuming God was uniform in His act of creation, it is reasonable to assume the elements and compounds found here on earth exist throughout the universe.

Second, while the Bible is silent on the subject of life elsewhere in the universe, it does not expressly say life does not exist elsewhere in the universe.  For these reasons, discovery of life beyond this terrestrial existence would surprise me, but it would not alarm me.  Such a discovery would not disprove a single word in Scripture.  My faith rests on the revelation in His Word not some discovery of man.

I have always held that there is no contradiction between true religion and true science.  When the Church of Rome excommunicated Galileo for opposing a geocentric universe and promoting a heliocentric planetary system, religion was wrong.  When evolutionists say we should unquestionably accept their unproven theory of the facts and ignore equally sound and tenable theories about the same facts, science is wrong.  I have never read of any fact revealed by science that caused me to doubt the Bible and I have never read anything in the Bible that caused me to doubt the facts revealed by science.  Science without religion is godless knowledge and religion without science is blind faith.  Mankind can ill afford either.

Man’s discoveries during his exploration of the cosmos cause me to echo the words of the psalmist, “The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples have seen His glory” (Psalm 97:6) and man’s unraveling of the microbiological mysteries of DNA’s complexity and exactitude cause me to repeat, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

I once heard a televangelist say he had asked God if there was life in outer space.  He said God replied, “I’m out here.”  While some may doubt God speaks to us today in such a way, I found these words to be simple, direct and true to Scripture (Psalm 139:7-10).  I found these words to be inexplicably satisfying.  How about you?

Scientists assert it is not logical to assume we are “alone” in the universe.  I agree, because I do not think I am alone.  Of course, you do not have to believe in God.  If you prefer you can believe “A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

We Must Obey God

He is an internet sensation thanks to YouTube.  His high school graduation speech in the small community of Liberty, South Carolina, has made national news.  For an eighteen year-old, he seems uncommonly poised and unperturbed by all the hoopla.

Roy Costner IV in his valedictory address at Liberty High School’s graduation ceremony this past June 1 tore up his preapproved speech and delivered a nine minute address that has thrust him into the media spotlight, and made him the focal point in the debate on public prayer.  Actually, it was the fifty-two second clip during which he recited the Lord’s Prayer that has generated all the attention.

The Pickens County School Board was being pressured by outside groups, and had recently adopted a policy banning public prayer in the school district.  The school board required speeches to be preapproved according to the new guidelines which required no religious references.

Roy at the beginning of his speech said, “I first want to say that I turned in my speech to Ms. Gwinn [Principal Lori Gwinn] which she somehow seemed to approve, so obviously I didn’t do my job well enough.  So we’re going to get rid of that and use a different one.”  The response then and since has been overwhelmingly positive, but he has had his detractors.

Some say Roy was being deceptive by his switcheroo.  Maybe he was.  But maybe he was just weary of others trying to dictate what we say, or what we should believe.  Maybe he felt the need to take a stand against the growing bigotry and intolerance of those opposed to the Christian faith.  Others say he was being openly defiant of authority, but maybe he was submitting to a higher authority.

I do know Roy is in good company.  Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for praying when prayer had been legally banned.  His accusers were successful in having Daniel condemned, but he was delivered from the mouths of the lions because, as he told King Darius, “toward you, O king, I have committed no crime” (Daniel 6:22).  It is not a crime to pray, no matter who may say different.  Someone will always find reason for offense, but no one is genuinely harmed by another’s prayer.

In the early days of the church the apostles were forbidden to preach the Gospel.  Peter was a repeat offender.  When he was confronted by the Sanhedrin, the same council that had accused Jesus and lobbied Pilate for His crucifixion, they told Peter he had been ordered to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, yet he had refused.  Peter’s response was simple, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Christians here in America live in an increasingly anti-Christian culture.  Ignoring the dangers our nation seems intent on pursuing its spiritual and moral decline, and this will inevitably be reflected in the practices of our culture and the laws passed by our representatives.  Some of these practices and laws will probably be contrary to the Christian worldview.

Christians have a desire and an obligation (Romans 13:1) to obey governmental authority and its laws, as long as those laws do not require us to disobey God’s revealed will in the Scriptures.  Unlike other religions, we are taught to love our enemies and not to hate them.  Christians will not be commandeering aircraft and flying them into office buildings, but we may find ourselves in the future in disagreement with some laws and we may choose to follow the Scriptures instead.

We may become the target of ridicule and abuse.  We may have many bad things said about us, and be jailed and imprisoned for our stand.  After all, it has happened before.  But civil disobedience will only happen if we are given no other recourse.

Christians are constrained by a higher Power.  We willingly give our allegiance to the One who sent His Son to die for our sins that we might be redeemed.  That redemption came at a price we cannot ignore.  Society may try to press us into conformity with its values, but we will of necessity rebel if they are opposed to God’s Word.

That is what Daniel, Peter, and Roy did given their respective circumstances.  Because as Christians when it comes down to a matter of allegiance, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The Real You

Suppose you are checking your bank account online and by some malfunction of the computer program you gain access not to your account, but to the account of a multi-billionaire.  Because of a glitch in the system you can transfer five million dollars into your own account, and because it is an insignificant amount to a billionaire it would never be missed, and you can get away with it.  He has enough money and won’t miss a million here or there.   Would you do it?

If you did do it, it would soon become apparent that your financial situation had changed.  You would probably quit your job, get a new house, and buy a new car.  Your new leisurely lifestyle would prompt someone to ask, where did you get all that money?  Would you then lie about how you acquired this small fortune?

About a year after all of this happens, you get a phone call from someone who will not identify himself saying he knows how you got your money.  This person goes on to say he will not report this to the authorities if you will pay him a million dollars.  As you think about paying, you wonder if this will guarantee his silence.  He is an extortionist, can he be trusted?  You decide you can’t trust him, so you determine to kill him.

Many people who consider themselves “good” admitted that if they could get away with it they would steal, lie, and commit murder.  This would involve breaking the sixth, eighth, ninth, and tenth Commandments of the Decalogue.  The tenth Commandment is not to covet which means being willing to kill, steal and lie to get what belongs to someone else.

I watched the thirty minute video Genius on youtube.com by street evangelist Ray Comfort.  The video talks about the life of John Lennon and the Beatles.  But intermingled in this narrative are street interviews with people where Ray asks questions similar to the ones asked in the scenario above.  All claimed to be “Christian” or a “good” person, but Ray asks them if they are willing to steal what belongs to another, or to kill for money, how can that be considered “good?”

The video did a great job of revealing that when it comes to the real person, people who claim to be “good” are willing to do some very “bad” things.  Ray is simply trying to point out that people are really not as good as they think they are.  He is hoping to convey the biblical truth that while the term sinner is something we think applies to someone else, in reality it applies to all of us.

This is the point the apostle Paul is making in his letter to the Romans when he writes “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23.  We all have done things or are willing to do things that cause us to fall short of how God wants us to live, that is, a life of obedience that would bring glory to Him.

This means we are guilty before God.  It doesn’t mean we feel guilty.  You may get a ticket for speeding.  Even though you may not “feel” guilty or feel bad about speeding, you are still guilty in the eyes of the court and will pay the appropriate fine.  That is the way sin is.  We may not feel guilty because we have grown comfortable in the thought everyone is doing it.  But this does not exonerate our judicial guilty before God, our feelings have nothing to do with our guilt.

Failing to recognize our sin and judicial guilt can have damnable consequences.  If our guilt continues unaddressed we are in jeopardy of facing that heavenly tribunal unprepared for the consequences of our actions.  But if we confess our sins, repent, and turn to faith in Christ, we can stand before that judgment seat, and though guilty, we will have an advocate in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ who will plead our case.

Who is the real you?  Do you think you are a good person?  Do you think you are good enough to go into eternity without Christ?  I have to be honest.  We have all sinned and need a Savior.  The truth is the real you won’t make it into heaven, only the redeemed you will.