Myth

According to Greek mythology, Dionysus was the offspring of the Greek god Zeus and a mortal female virgin Semele. Accounts claims he could turn water into wine and had died and been resurrected. The parallels to the Christ narrative of Scripture are unmistakable, but he had a cultic following that predates Christ’s advent by 1,500 years.

Likewise the Egyptian god Osiris repeatedly died and was resurrected and fathered a son named Horus that presages the life of Jesus by 3,000 years. There are those who claim these narratives along with bits and pieces from other mythological stories were borrowed from and complied to create the story of Jesus. The skeptic would have us believe the Christ of the Bible was just a little more modern myth founded on a hodgepodge of those that preceded it.

But to the discerning eye there are obvious differences. Each of these pagan myths once had a dedicated following of cultic adherents, but not anymore. It is hard to sustain a robust faith predicated on nothing more than a fable, a fabricated story with no basis in history. A fictional story cannot maintain a genuine faith.

In contradistinction Christianity appears to have been founded on the simple eyewitness accounts of those early followers who claimed to have witnessed the reality of the resurrection and spent the rest of their lives preaching the resurrection despite the sure condemnation of their countrymen, the persecution of the Roman Empire, and the skepticism of those who they were sent to, while suffering some of the most grievous tortures known to flesh and blood up to and including sealing their testimony with their martyrdom.

This is how we can distinguish Christianity from ancient myths, but the historicity of Christianity can also be used to distinguish it from modern myths that may have a strong following today. But I wish to share something that was a defining moment in my life and faith.

I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was eight years old. On that summer Sunday evening when I decided to trust Christ as my Savior something happened in my heart that is difficult if not impossible to explain. It must have been similar to what Paul experienced on the road to Damascus, the household of Cornelius at Caesarea, or the jailer at Philippi, because it changed my life and has continued to do since then.

This ongoing transformation within is an abiding witness that “He who has the Son has the life,” First John 5:12.

These are just a few of the reasons I take the words of Paul seriously when he writes, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths,” Second Timothy 4:3-4.

To Judge Or Not To Judge

I realize that when certain ideas become ingrained in the popular mindset, those ideas are seldom amenable to change. Once we accept a certain viewpoint we are reluctant to reconsider an alternative explanation. That holds true when it comes to the Bible. I often hear people quote the Scriptures and because they misunderstand what is being said they misapply what they have read, or in most instances what they have heard.

One of the most misunderstood teachings in the Word of God is what is written about judging. I often hear believer and unbeliever alike say things about this verb that is misleading. I hope to correct some common misconceptions here.

The term “judge” has quite a semantic range. But for the purposes of this article the word “examine” will serve as a suitable synonym.

The passage of Scripture that is often misapprehended and subsequently misapplied comes from the lips of Christ in His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged,” Matthew 7:1. He explains in the next four verses what He is talking about. He essentially says before one examines the relatively minor flaws on another, one should examine the greater faults in their own life. When one only sees the shortcomings of another without recognizing their own, that one is a hypocrite, verse five. Jesus is condemning hypocritical judgment, he is not inferring we should never judge.

Jesus goes on to command us to judge and the manner in which we should make judgments. He said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,” John 7:24. Jesus said this to defend His healing of a man on the Sabbath. He said if circumcision is practiced on the Sabbath to keep the Law of Moses, a good thing, is it wrong to do a similar good on the Sabbath like healing a man? Jesus appeared to be violating the Sabbath, but actually was fulfilling it by doing something good.

Jesus’ response to the accusation was in the imperative, we are commanded by Jesus not to examine ideas and practices superficially or subjectively, but to consider them according to what the Father teaches us in Scripture is holy and good. The truth is making judgments about the things we hear, the things we see, and how we should respond is not an option for the believer. If the Christian intends to live a godly life he or she must examine his daily experiences and subject them to what the Bible says is right or wrong, not what society says is right or wrong.

Making necessary judgments is unavoidable for the Christian. If the believer does not want to be conformed to this world, but be transformed into the image of Christ in conduct and character, like Luther he must cry “my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

What is Hillsong Singing?

In a blog he shared publically on August 2 of this year, Geoffrey Grinder wrote that two “out and proud” homosexual men Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly are engaged to be married and “lead the worship choir during worship services at Hillsong in New York City.” Hillsong is a megachurch founded by pastor Brian Houston in Sydney, Australia, and has started churches in other major cities around the world one of which is in New York City.

Carl Lentz has been the senor pastor since the launch of Hillsong NYC in October of 2010. In a televised interview with Katie Couric in December 2013, Lentz said he did not want to take a public stand on private matters like homosexuality. In a press conference in October of 2014 Brian Houston was on hand for a Hillsong Conference being held at the NYC campus. Lentz once again refused to take a pubic stand on homosexuality, and Houston said, “I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

I agree, as a believer who accepts the Scriptures as the Word of God and recognizes their authority to define what we should believe and how we should live it speaks plainly and clearly about sexual practices. But to those who do not read it, and are involved in sexual practices they have no desire to forsake, and with the false and conflicting interpretations that condone homosexual sin, what Paul says is not so clear. At least it was not clear to Canfield and Kelly who claim to be choir members at Hillsong NYC.

Hillsong founder Brian Houston has recently written a response to clarify Hillsong’s position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. He wrote, “God’s word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman…we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid…we are a gay welcoming church but we are not a church that affirms a gay lifestyle.” Now that is clear.

Some churches have been reluctant to address the issue of homosexuality head-on lest they lose the opportunity to reach the LGBT community with the Gospel. But can the church afford to appear to be reticent on an issue of controversy when the Scriptures address it so clearly and certainly?

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

That time has come. There has never been a time in America when same-sex sin has been celebrated and traditional marriage has been insistently challenged as it is now. If the church is to proclaim the grace of God’s forgiveness, we must be clear and truthful on why that forgiveness is needed. The truth should not need to be pried from our lips, but declared with clarion certitude.

Will Planned Parenthood Be Defunded

On July 14 a video was released of Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood, discussing the harvesting of fetal body parts while sipping wine and eating a salad. The video went viral and part of the fallout has been a call to defund governmental support of Planned Parenthood that gets an annual paycheck of about five hundred million dollars from taxpayers every year.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton initially called the video “disturbing” but quickly regained her political composure making a video defending Planned Parenthood. She said, “When politicians talk about defunding Planned Parenthood they’re talking about blocking millions of women, men, and young people from life-saving preventive care.”

Dr. C. Everett Koop, Surgeon General of the United States during the Reagan Administration, made it clear there is a difference in aborting a pregnancy, and aborting a baby.

He said, “Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life.” Most abortions “are performed just for convenience.”

Koop goes on to say, “When a woman is pregnant, her obstetrician takes on the care of two patients, the mother-to-be and the unborn baby. If, toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, he will take the child by inducing labor or performing a Caesarian section. His intention is still to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby will be premature. The baby is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”

Like Dr. Koop said, aborting a baby to save the mother’s life is a “smoke screen” and is done for “convenience.” Planned Parenthood is not offering “life-saving preventive care” as Hillary Clinton claims; they are contributing to the slaughter of the unborn at the rate of about 1.5 million each year.

In Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court of the United States feigned ignorance of when life begins, but it takes a live male sperm impregnating a live female egg for conception to occur. We know that within thirty seconds of conception half of the father’s genes and half of the mother’s genes unite in the zygote to create a unique nascent human being. We cannot say we do not know when human life begins with the knowledge medical science reveals.

The Psalmist put it this way, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them,” Psalm 139:16.

Will the recent revelations end funding for Planned Parenthood and bring the demise of abortion on demand? As long as conception continues without conscience there will continue to be a demand for convenience. Planned Parenthood is far from being dead; I wish I could say the same for the unborn.

Two Heroines and a Madman

On Thursday, July 23, 2015, around 7:30 p.m., John Russel Houser opened fire in a Lafayette, Louisiana theatre killing Mayci Breaux and Jillian Johnson, and wounding nine others. Jena Meaux was shot shielding her friend Allister Martin from “a hail of bullets” and Martin despite being wounded in the leg managed to reach a fire alarm and pulled it.

Meaux probably saved Martin, and Martin’s quick thinking in activating the fire alarm insured a swift response of emergency personnel and police that helped save lives and bring a quick end to Houser’s rampage. Trying to escape by blending in with the crowd rushing from the scene, Houser retreated to the movie theatre as police arrived and took his own life.

The week before James Holmes was convicted of killing 12 and wounding 70 more in a similar shooting spree that occurred three years before in an Aurora, Colorado, theatre. Tragically reminiscent of the shooting in Colorado which was bloodier and costlier, there are similarities, some were wounded and some died, each involved a madman and each had heroes.

In those few fear-filled moments in that Louisiana theatre we have witnessed side-by-side the two extremes of human nature. In John Russel Houser we saw the depths to which man’s depravity can stoop, and in the actions of Jena Meaux and Allister Martin we can see the heights of human heroism.

Only the Scriptures give us a reliable explanation for these two extreme and contradictory natures. We read in the first chapter of Genesis “God created man in His on image,” Genesis 1:27. Man is endowed by his Creator with a nobility that transcends the dust from which we were formed. But that image has been marred by the sin nature we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, who fell from innocence into transgression.

That sin nature rears its ugly head when their eldest son Cain kills his younger brother Abel, and within the first four chapters of Genesis the stage is set for the drama of human history and conflict that follows. Within every human being rests the capability of great good or horrific evil, and judgment awaits. Houser may have cheated the hangman in a dark corner of that theatre, but he will not escape justice and the judgment to come.

Each of us bears the image of our Creator, an image that was marred by a nature inherited from our first parents by the fall. Life is a constant battle between our created image and inherited nature, and yet nothing we can do will ultimately secure our eternal welfare, as nothing we do can makes eternal damnation inescapable.

The only hope to be free of our old nature so we can live up to the image we were created in is the atoning work of Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come,” 2 Corinthians 5:17.