Is all this the Judgement of God?

Irma has wreaked havoc across my home state of Florida. My wife and I are recovering from the aftermath as are many others, and though we did not escape unscathed we did not sustain the property damage, bodily injury, and in some cases the loss of life that others have. We consider ourselves thankful and blessed, and pray for all of those who lost so much more.

Before this Harvey pounded the Gulf coast of Texas and Houston and they are still recovering from Harvey’s devastation. Mexico was rocked by an earthquake that registered 8.2 on the Richter Scale that was then hit by hurricane Katia. The northwest of our nation is scorched by wildfires and many are asking or thinking, what is going on?

An article I read said that “since the 1980s there has been a “400-percent increase in natural disasters globally.” Of course some of this could be attributed to increase awareness thanks to the technological advances of the Internet age, nevertheless, it points to an abundance of catastrophes occurring on a regular basis.

Some are asking and others are saying this is the judgment of God. Jesus said the Father “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” Matthew 5:45. The weather, whether good or bad, is experienced by the believer and unbeliever alike. If bad weather is God’s judgment then there are a lot of good people affected by it.

I do not think bad weather is the judgment of God. While God has used, and can again if He desires, natural disasters to execute His justice, I do not think that is what is happening now. But bad weather does reveal what we think about God, and how we handle the difficulties caused by it.

Some will curse God and Irma and complain about their losses and others will do what they can to help family, friends and strangers through the crisis. Some will simply become bitter, others will aspire to do better.

One thing that can be said about the catastrophic disasters we hear of or experience is this; man is not really in much control of what happens. What Irma did here in Florida in a few hours will take months to recover from, if at all. If in the midst of great loss this crisis opens us up to our complete dependence on God and the need to draw closer to Him it will not have been a wasted experience.

Natural disasters from without will not destroy our country as much as the spiritual storms within the hearts of men will cause our country to crumble and collapse under the weight of its own decadence. God is not sending His judgment; He is allowing us to destroy ourselves. Those who are suffering from the ravages of natural disasters are not greater sinners than the rest of us, “but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” Luke 13:5.

Advertisements

Interpreting the Bible

I have been a committed and passionate student of the Scriptures since 1973, forty-four years. My commitment and passion has been fueled by the sure belief that the Bible was inspired and has been preserved by Father God as a reliable guide to His holy nature and divine will intended by Him for us to read and understand.

My studies have served to reaffirm that conviction and my diligence has been rewarded with a greater understanding and insight of what the Scriptures teach. So I was concerned when I read an article recently titled Interpreting the Bible Just Got More Complicated by Dr. Hugh Houghton writing for The Daily Beast.

The title of the article suggests interpreting the Scriptures is too complicated based on the relatively obscure commentary of a fourth century scholar, Fortunatianus of Aquileia. He believed the Bible should be interpreted allegorically, not literally, and Dr. Houghton said this agrees with what the third century theologian Origen of Alexandria taught.

Based on their views Dr. Houghton concludes “you don’t have to read the Bible literally,” and “for most of the Christian era nobody thought you should.” If the allegorical interpretation of Scripture was the widespread accepted method of understanding the Bible in early Christianity, why did it lapse into obscurity?

The answer is because the allegorical method was so questionable that the majority of believers deemed it unworthy of their continued attention. It fell into obscurity for a reason; it did not enjoy the widespread popularity in the Christian community that Dr. Houghton claims.

The allegorical method of interpretation is inherently flawed; it subjects the meaning of the Scriptures to the personal perspective of the interpreter. And the Scriptures themselves tell us they are not “a matter of one’s own interpretation,” 1 Peter 1:20. It also suggest we cannot understand the Scriptures for what they plainly say.

The Scriptures are a straightforward claim to be a historical record of God’s interactions with men and understanding the historical context is important in understanding why God said what He did. He couched this revelation of Himself in human language so that understanding the interplay between semantics, what words mean, and syntax, the way words are put together to convey meaning, is important to interpreting His Word.

There are no hidden meanings, the Bible should be trusted to mean what it plainly says, although the mind darkened by sin and reluctant to accept the truth contained therein may find it incomprehensible. But every believer is promised “the Spirit of truth” who will guide us “into all truth,” John 16:13.

Therefore, the commonly accepted method of interpreting the Scriptures is the historical, grammatical, plain meaning of the Text.

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” John 8:31-32. The Scriptures are a straightforward historical record not a collection of fables; that’s why its first words are “In the beginning” and not “Once upon a time.”

The Nashville Statement

This past August 29, 2017, approximately 150 evangelical leaders issued what is being called “The Nashville Statement.” It has been characterized as a “Christian manifesto” on the biblical perspective of human sexuality. While I do not know all the signatories, there are several I do recognize who command my respect as men of God.

It has a preamble and fourteen articles each comprised of an affirmation and corresponding denial about human sexuality. It was issued by The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I have read it and can say it is a solidly Scriptural document.

It affirmed that the only marriage sanctioned by God is between one man and one woman, and God calls us to “chastity outside marriage and fidelity within marriage.”

Article 10 states, “WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness. WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”

What Article 10 means is one cannot truly claim to be Christian and approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism. This statement calls homosexuality and transgenderism “self-conceptions,” that is, they deny God’s purpose in human sexuality and/or their birth gender in favor of what they decide to perceive themselves to be.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s biblical support for the Nashville Statement is, “Know that the Lord Himself is God: it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves,” Psalm 100:3. If we believe the Scriptures we must believe marriage was never meant to be between two men or two women and our gender is assigned at birth.

Of course, those within the LGBT community and those who sympathize with their agenda have been whining about the Nashville Statement since it was published. But most of the complaints can be summed up in the words of activist DeRay McKesson, he said, “The God I know does not support the #Nashville Statement.”

His is right because the God he knows is a god he has imagined, a god he imagines to agree with his perspective, an idol he has fashioned in his own image, not the God of the Bible. The Nashville Statement is predicated on what the Bible teaches, not what men think or imagine about God.

The question on my mind is why these men thought such a statement was “urgently needed.” There is no other teaching in the Bible any clearer than the teachings on human sexuality and gender. That’s why transgressors are enraged by it, and any believer who is confused about the issues is not reading the Bible or is reading it and not believing it.

The Christian already has a manifesto, it’s called the Bible. And if we do not trust and obey what it says another statement is meaningless.

Who is doing the concocting?

Zack Ford writing for thinkprogress.org recently wrote an article titled “New book concocts a religious excuse to demonize trans people.” This is coming from a writer who was in hearty agreement with a man being voted woman of the year in 2015. So who is doing the concocting?

Ford’s article demonizes Andrew T. Walker and the book he wrote entitled “God and the Transgender Debate.” Walker is the Director of Policy Studies for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. I have not read Walker’s book, but if Ford’s article correctly quotes it then I would have to agree with Walker’s conclusions.

Ford’s angst is understandable; he correctly recognizes that “all of Walker’s main arguments mirror arguments against homosexuality” and he is very vocal about being both gay and an atheist. So he would see a book about the sin of transgenderism based on the teaching of the Bible a double threat.

He accuses Walker of writing that “gay/trans identities are subjective and not ‘empirically verifiable.’” That is true there are no gay or trans genetic markers, ergo the behavior is not inherited or predictable and can be reversed.

Ford says Walker claims, “It is not a sin to be gay/trans, but acting on it is.” Certainly there is a difference between being tempted to transgress, and actually giving in to temptation and sinning.

“People who are gay/trans can be saved through faith in Christ.” Acting on gay or transgender feelings are no greater than any other sin, but as I have also said they are no less grave. Like all sins they are damnable, but their remedy can be found in Christ.

Ford also declares Walker affirms, “Someone can embrace a transgender identity or find their identity in Christ, but not both.” One cannot claim to love God and love their sin that God has revealed is evil. As Walker said by rejecting what the Scriptures say about gender and same-sex, “They are rejecting Jesus.”

It is this kind of inconsistency between what one says and what he does that prompted Christ to ask, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46. One cannot legitimately claim to be a Christian and willfully ignore the biblical teachings on gender and sex.

The Scriptures command, “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God,” Deuteronomy 22:5. This is sinful because it disguises one’s true gender deceiving others regarding the same breaking the ninth commandment to not bear false witness, and it attracts others of the same sex to encourage homosexual sin.

Some would argue this is merely a prohibition against cross-dressing. But if God thinks it is wrong for a man to dress like a woman, do you think it is any less sinful for him to want to be one?

So who is doing the concocting?

Charlottesville

Unless you are a hermit with no access to news media you cannot have missed the turmoil that occurred his past August 12, a Saturday in a small town. Some white nationalists had planned to hold a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to show their disapproval of the removing of a Robert E. Lee statue. Some white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups showed up and from what I can tell commandeered the rally, which sparked anti-racial protests in response.

The two groups began to exchange expletives, name-calling and throwing things at one another. One group yelled racial epithets, someone reportedly hollered on the other side, “black lives matter.” One thing led to another so that the rally turned protest degenerated into what can be described as a riot.

As the melee erupted the local police stood on the sidelines making little effort, the small town police force possibly unable to control the crowds, to stop the violence seemingly content to witness and contain it.

A young man that reports claim was a white supremacy sympathizer drove his car into the counter-protestors killing a woman and seriously injuring several more. Dozens more were injured in the many fistfights that broke out.

President Trump accused both sides of contributing to the violence, and there seems to be some evidence of that, and Michael Signer, Charlottesville’s mayor, accused the President of promoting the racial divide that led to the rioting. Democrats and Republicans both condemned the violence.

What should believers make of all this?

I am in favor of a strong sense of nationalism that supports our government’s efforts to provide for the wellbeing and protection of all its citizens equally. I am not entirely sure what “white” nationalism is but when one qualifies nationalism with a color it already sounds racist to me. I believe black lives matter, but that is because I believe all lives matter.

If anyone thinks racism is on the wane in this country, Charlottesville will make him think again. Sadly, it is alive and well and it may very well be that the racism we are reaping now is from the slavery we sowed years ago.

It is difficult to imagine that the brutality and cruel practice of slavery in this country’s past could be sanctioned as anything akin to the description of it in Scripture. And racism, slavery’s illegitimate child, has absolutely no biblical support. No man, whatever the color of his skin, can claim any superiority when Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23.

Paul also tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men,” Romans 12:18. But when people cease being God–centered, they quickly become self-centered, and when they turn away from God, it is not long before they turn on one another.

Unless our nation experiences a mighty repentance and revival we can expect to see the things we witnessed in Charlottesville again.

Is Evolution v. Creationism just a war of words?

I read an article recently that suggested those of us who believe in creation are merely quibbling over the meaning of the word theory and ignoring reality. Really?

To be honest, there are two very different senses of the word theory that conflict. Evolutionists use theory as “a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena.”

Creationists on the other hand see the word theory as “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.”

The conflict between the two definitions is clear. There are several underlying hypotheses that must be true for the general theory of evolution to be true. Let’s look into the scientific reality of those hypotheses.

Evolutionists discount the creationist claim that God created life and counter that life began spontaneously on its own. The reality is the whole scientific community is not in possession of a single observable fact about the beginning of life. The National Academy of Science said in one of their publications they have been unable to produce life in the laboratory, and even if they had, they admit they cannot say that is the way life began. The question of how life began has only two possible answers; either God created it, or it began on its own.

Evolutionists claim the diversity of life is the result of billions of beneficial germinal mutations occurring over billions of years. We know malevolent germinal mutations exist, e.g., albinism, but there is not one example of a known beneficial germinal mutation. Current claims of evolution can be laid at the feet of dominant/recessive gene action based on inherent DNA data. There has not been any new genetic information produced by beneficial germinal mutations.

Evolutionists say humans share a strong genetic resemblance in their DNA with our simian cousins suggesting a common ancestor. While all the ape species share genetic similarities they evidently are not reproductively compatible. If we are so strongly related to suggest common ancestry would that not suggest reproductive compatibility to ensure continued evolution? Where is that body of evidence?

Evolutionists tells us comparative anatomy, the idea most creatures share common anatomical similarities such as a skeletal system, and embryonics, the idea that all creatures share similarities in their formative stages, are evidence we share common ancestry. Those are assumptions that prove nothing about evolution.

It is these kinds of leaps in logic that make me feel comfortable taking a leap in faith. If all evolutionists have are theories about the facts, then evolution is more a matter of faith than it is science. And when it comes to faith I will stick with the Scriptures.

Paul warned Timothy “keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding…oppositions of science falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith,” 1 Timothy 6:20-21 (KJV). That sounds reasonable.

Rob Bell and Hell

Rob Bell was speaking in Atlanta recently and a CNN writer wrote about it in an article titled Outlaw pastor Rob Bell shakes up the Bible belt. Rob is the author of several books that question Christian beliefs on a number of doctrines. The one he is most known for is his teaching that hell is not an everlasting place of torment.

There were some detractors outside preaching and passing out tracts to warn those arriving not to listen to him. And Rob made no attempt to placate his detractors when he said that white evangelicals had elected a man who had “no moral compass.”

He did not explain how that distinguished Donald Trump from Hillary Clinton, but if he thinks the last election was about which of the two moral midgets was the tallest, I can understand why he has difficulty interpreting the Scriptures.

There are a couple of things that need to be considered when talking about the afterlife in Scripture. While we have as complete a description as we are going to get of what is popularly termed “heaven and hell,” what we have is actually a composite picture gleaned from several scattered accounts taken from both the Old and New Testaments.

While we have been given enough information about the two destinations to know how to gain the one and shun the other, and while we do not have all the details about either place , we do have some undeniable facts, both places are eternal.

The next thing to be considered is the terminology. There are two words in the Greek New Testament that are translated as “hell” in the King James Version, Gehenna and Hades. In the New American Standard and other modern translations Gehenna is translated as “hell” and Hades is transliterated.

Both terms were borrowed from the popular culture then and mean something quite different in the context of Scripture than their etymology would suggest. There is no interpretive license to assign a meaning of these words apart from their biblical context.

But Rob Bell is right on one point, hell or Hades, is not eternal; it is to be cast into the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:14-15, and the Lake of Fire is a place of eternal torment, Revelation 20:10, et alia. You do not need to take Rob Bell’s word for it, or even mine, it is all right there in the Bible for anyone to read.

Paul warned “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires,” 2 Timothy 4:3.

To those who want to believe there is no eternal torment awaiting disbelievers there will always be a teacher who will accommodate them. The only ones who will be deceived about hell are those who want to be, because they do not care enough to read the Bible for themselves.