Faith and Works

I read a question that a homosexual man raised while commenting on a biblical issue. He asked wouldn’t it be a denial of saving faith for him to forsake his homosexual lifestyle to marry a woman and begin a heterosexual life? Wouldn’t that be conceding that salvation is by works and not by faith?

His question raises a serious theological issue and two thoughts crossed my mind when I decided to answer his question. My first thought is the heightened emotional feelings that typically accompany any discussion of homosexual issues will overshadow the biblical answer. My second thought is that it is a significant matter and a timely issue in our current cultural climate, and my readers deserve an honest, scriptural response.

The fallacy in his question is the assumption that there is a difference between what we believe and what we do. It is the idea that faith is something we lock up in our own personal, private little box and should never be let out. It is a denial of the genuine transformative effect of saving faith.

The transformative effect of faith is seen repeatedly and clearly in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews where the actions of Old Testament saints are prefaced by the phrase, “By faith…” We read, “By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain…, By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death…, By faith Noah…prepared an ark…, By faith Abraham…went out not knowing where he was going.”

These are just a few mentioned in Hebrews chapter eleven, and the faith they possessed resulted in corresponding works of faith. Their faith changed the direction of their lives.

This is the point James made so well in his letter. “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” James 2:14. James is not saying our works save us; he is merely making the point that genuine saving faith will have a life-changing effect seen in the believer’s works.

The faith that inspires trust in Christ as our Savoir is the same faith we rely on to obey Him as Lord. The teachings of the apostles and testimony of believers throughout the Scriptures do no recognize a dichotomy between faith and practice. What they believed is what they lived even at the cost of their lives.

This is why John said, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” 1 John 2:4. Claiming to be a Christian while practicing immorality is a lie.

So the answer to the question is no, forsaking an immoral lifestyle for a moral one will not save anyone, it will not save the homosexual, the adulterer, the liar or the thief. Only a genuine life-transforming faith saves.

Science and Superstition

One of the meanings given for the word superstition is “any blindly accepted belief or notion.” I was thinking about this when I began reading through my Bible again this past January. Let me explain.

Theoretical physicists like Lawrence Krauss, who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and director of its Origins Project, and Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center, theorize the universe and all the matter that would ever exist, came into being from nothing, and was dispersed throughout the universe within the first three minutes of the Big Bang.

This means the matter that formed distant stars got to their current location in less than three minutes, but these scientists tell us energy in the form of light took millions of light years to make the return trip. Kaku explained this by saying matter can move through the vacuum of space faster than the speed of light. So I guess matter can move faster than the speed of light, but light cannot move faster than the speed of light. We call this science.

The Scriptures declare, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” that is to say, the universe. He did that during the first day; He created everything from nothing. And I believe He did that in less time than it took for Him to say, “Let there be light,” which was much less than three minutes or even twenty-four hours for that matter. He probably took the rest of the day off to enjoy His handiwork.

But some scientists would call me superstitious for believing the universe was created by God, while based on a “blindly accepted belief or notion” they claim the universe came into existence without God. It left me wondering what is the difference between science and superstition when it comes to the origin of the universe?

Then it struck me; theirs is an educated guess. Then I thought, what makes an educated guess better than just a plain everyday guess? Maybe an educated guess is made by educated people using educated language, I guess. And maybe they make an educated guess because they think they must have an answer for things they don’t have any evidence for, I guess.

And while we are guessing, I guess scientists invent some theories to explain things they have no evidence for in the same way they accuse believers for inventing God to explain things we have no evidence for (of course, we maintain we did not invent God, it was the other way around).

So we have come full circle back to my original thought, what is the difference between what science says about the origin of the universe, and superstitious believers say about the universe’s origin? It is a question of faith; some believe in an educated guess, and some believe in a Creator.

Reading through the Bible

I read through my Bible about every eleven months. On February 25, 2016, I started my fifty-first reading of the Scriptures and finished this past January 26, 2017. I promptly started my fifty-second reading the next day January 27, 2017, and I anticipate finishing around December of this year.

I am not bragging or trying to set a record. George Mueller said he read through his Bible over 200 times in his lifetime. I am an avid reader because I like to read, and the Bible is the book I like to read most. The reason I am writing about this is I want people to know reading through the Bible in a year is doable.

I read about five chapters every morning Monday though Friday. My longest time reading is when I get to Psalms 116 through 120, because Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. It takes me a little over twenty-two minutes reading leisurely. My average daily reading time is only about twelve minutes.

My point is it does not take a great commitment of time to read through the Scriptures. It only takes a little discipline. So why do I continually read through the Bible? That is a fair question.

First, I do it for me. Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth,” 2 Timothy 2:15. I like knowing firsthand what I believe and why I believe it. I do not like to depend on hearsay for something so important.

Like most of us I’m forgetful. I have heard enough people replace their memory of what the Bible says with their imagination, and I don’t want to be one of them. My memory needs refreshing probably more than most so my daily reading is a great reminder of what is true.

I also find my attention drawn to details or specifics in my reading that I overlooked before. And as I mature in Christ passages that were once difficult to understand become clearer. Thinking about what I read helps me to slow down life’s pace, because reading and thinking breed patience.

Reading the Scriptures daily helps me keep a divine perspective of life and history as events unfold. We so often see events through the lens of time and God sees all things through the lens of eternity, and we need this eternal perspective so that we do not lose our way in time. We can become baffled if we fixate on our own snapshot in time unless we see it blended into the backdrop of eternity.

I have said that common sense is not as common as it once was. Common sense is in a manner of speaking another term for wisdom, and the Word of God is loaded with sensible wisdom.

And last, but I am positive is least, I am a real whiz at Bible Trivia.

The New Bible-thumpers

During the recent presidential campaign, when there was growing support among evangelicals for Trump, democrats were quick to remind everyone there is no religious test for public office, and religion and politics should be kept separate. Since Trump initiated his immigration policy the liberal Bible-thumpers have begun to howl.

One commentator contributing to the Huffington Post referenced these verses, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself,” Leviticus 19:33-34, as proof of God’s disdain for Trump’s policy.

K. Rowling tweeted to Vice-President Pence the words of Christ, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matthew 16:26, because he flip-flopped on the immigration issue and now backs his President. Does she really believe Mike Pence will be damned for flip-flopping on immigration?

I am ambivalent on the matter because I can see both sides on the issue. I would not want to see someone refused entry to our country in genuine need of political or religious asylum. But neither do I want someone granted entry to our nation who intends to commit an act of violence on my fellow citizens.

But there is something I am not ambivalent about and that is taking Scriptures out of their context to support one’s personal and petty, political peeves.

Yes, the Bible clearly addresses how a “stranger,” i.e., a foreign national, should be treated within our land. They should be treated equally, fairly, but the Bible does not address the rules on how they gain entry. In ancient times immigration was a non-issue.

Ancient countries were just as jealous of their sovereignty as modern ones, but their boundaries were not as well defined or secure as they are today. People traveled freely between countries without the need for passports, all you needed then was a healthy camel.

Why weren’t the liberal Bible-thumpers quoting Leviticus on homosexuality during Hillary Clinton’s campaign, or the verses that talk about the sanctity of life in the womb? Or is it only convenient to quote the Bible now in the hope of turning those evangelicals who voted for Trump against him?

I read a recent headline claiming Christianity is in turmoil over the issue of immigration. Christians are not in turmoil over the policies of the past administration or the current administration, because we trust the One who controls them all. If we were in turmoil, I suppose we would be looting businesses and destroying other people’s property.

We are told in the Scriptures, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” 2 Peter 1:20-21. God gave us His word not to serve our purposes, but His.