Archive for the ‘Fighting for Peace’ Category

credit Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III

A map of galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and its Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey.

Many use the phrase “the Abrahamic religions” to describe Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. But what does this mean? Do we mean that each religion is a legitimate descendant of the faith Abraham shared or that these three religions merely claim it? If we care about truth, we must accept the second definition, because the three expressions radically contradict. Therefore they cannot all express Abraham’s faith. So what was the faith of Abraham? We must look to Genesis (the earliest account of Abraham’s life) and compare it to Jesus’ own teachings as passed on through his apostles. Doing so, the Christian faith is found to follow Abraham’s faith.

And [God] brought [Abraham] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5-6 ESV)

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void . . . That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” . . . No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
(Romans 4:13-25)

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)

For more, read Galatians and Romans 4-5, and of course the rest of Genesis. Discover that Abraham’s saving faith was a faith in God’s grace and promises rather than an obedience to laws. We must conclude that the only truly Abrahamic faith is one that trusts that God saves by faith in his promises and good news.

Image credit: Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III (http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/119797.php)

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Luther door
Oct 31, 1517 Reformation Day
The Protest for Reformation in the church in the early 1500s may have been triggered by the question of how money for indulgences was garnered and spent, but the root issues on both sides of the Roman Catholic and Protestant divide delve deep to the heart of the Christian faith, that of the authority of Scripture, getting it into the hands of the people in their own languages, and clarifying the Good News of the Gospels (i.e. what one puts their faith in and how one attained salvation of their souls). Thus the Reformers discussed “the Solas” (or “the alones”) which ought to characterize Christian faith.

Sola Scriptura – The ultimate authority for Man to know God’s mind is through God’s Word alone. By Scripture we test all other ideas and urges which we might wish that God had given us (1 Cor 4:6).
Sola Fide – We are saved by “Faith alone” (Gal 2:16) and not by trying harder to do good things while we continue to have a past (or even present) full of guilt. It is a faith in Jesus and his work that saves, but it is not a faith that is alone, for works bloom from faith.
Sola Gratia – Our salvation is a work of grace as a gift from God, so it is “grace alone” that initiates salvation, not our own will, so that none may boast (Eph 2:8).
Solus Christus – Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone and that by faith in him. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” -Peter (Acts 4:2)
Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God alone (Isa 48:11).

These were ideas from Scripture and had been noticed throughout church history, and here’s just one example a couple decades before it was declared by the Reformers.

When I confine myself to explaining holy Scripture my hearers receive much more light, and my preaching bore much more fruit in the conversion of men to Christ. For the holy Scripture contains that marvelous doctrine which more surely than a two-edged sword pierces men’s hearts with love which has adorned the world with virtue and has overthrown idolatry, superstition, and numberless errors.”
—Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola,
The Triumph of the Cross, Florence, Italy, A.D. 1498

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You might have heard a Christian complain that other Christians share a “gospel” of bad news rather than good news, but that criticism (though well intended) could be like telling an ambassador not to talk about the war but only of terms for its resolution. It is not an either-or issue, but an issue of overall emphasis. It is also a moral issue of whether we are true to sharing with rebels God’s terms of peace.

Throughout history many nations have thought that the moral high ground was to kill those labeled morally inferior. Today we think the high ground is not to kill anyone at all for any immorality, and even the concept of moral high ground is sometimes offensive. We have hit the opposite extreme, so that talk of judging this or that person for this or that action can be considered “hate speech” or “harmful talk.” But what does God’s Word say about how we should think of immorality and his judgements? Is God a pacifist? Or, on the other extreme, does he always seek justice by punishing sins with plagues? Isn’t the answer somewhere in between? When discussing sin and God’s judgements (the bad news), we have to remember one thing: it is the Creator’s prerogative to kill or not to kill. Only God gets to play God. Scripture says God judges and puts people to death, but it also says that often the judgement a person might receive for sin is that God might just hand us over to the wicked desires which we crave. In the end, that judgement is far more frightening than a disaster, because there may be no opportunity for turning back to God. At least, that ought to frighten us.

Sin earns us death (Rom 6:23), but the Way to eternal life is forgiveness through his Son, Jesus Christ, the coming king and judge (Acts 14:38-43; 17:30-31). While Jesus did not approve of followers who would do violence for his sake, Jesus also never asserted pacifism as the only way to live. He wasn’t against judgement (John 7:24). He was against judging hypocritically. Jesus asserted that having faith in him, and in his death on the cross for sin, was the only way to live. God the Father killed his willing Son as a substitute for the judgement on our sin (Isa 53:10-12). Jesus taught that the wages of sin—death and hell—would be paid in full to the disobedient, and that by his hands (Luke 19:27). Then he rose again on the third day.

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Yes and No. Not the answer you expected? Jesus frequently surprised his hearers by his view of reality, but it was always a better view than what his hearers had in mind. Jesus knew that the world did not originate as a place of suffering and death and meant to fix it. Some spoke to Jesus about a tragic news event, that the Roman governor had brutally murdered a group of people. The popular view among the crowd was that perhaps the victims had been judged by God for hidden sins. Jesus defended the victims with the same words which condemned the hidden sins of those speaking to him.

And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5 ESV)

Jesus knew that all humanity had fallen into sin. He alone was without sin because he was God incarnate, and he was warning them that the only reasonable way to deal with their sins was to ask him for forgiveness. However, Jesus did not only use suffering as a warning. He said suffering can be good for us and glorify God. When speaking about the suffering of a man born blind he gave suffering objective meaning. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

Christians can actually rejoice in sufferings (Rom 5:3) because we know that it is only temporary and not as meaningless as it seems. God promises that suffering is somehow shaping us to be more like Jesus (Rom 8:28-29).

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

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I heard everyone’s ticked off at Phil Robertson again. He apparently told a shocking story about an atheist family being tortured and killed and asserted that the atheist family would have no moral leg to stand on by which to protest. The reaction (rather than engaged response) of one atheist group was simply “it is unlikely that Robertson actually knows any atheists.”

As much as you may dislike Robertson’s delivery, perhaps he knows at least this atheist:
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
—Richard Dawkins

I didn’t see anyone morally outraged at Dawkins’ remarks.

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88% of abortions happen between this stage and before 13 weeks. This represents 48 million babies since Roe v Wade. In the USA alone…

The hardness of our hearts will blind us to the straightforward: “Those pictures pro-life activists flash are real,” Mary Mahoney told the Observer. “That is what a fetus looks like when its head is crushed.” AND YET she can conclude, “When you see the procedure, you must decide, as a pro-choice person, whether you are in or out,” said Mahoney, adding: “I have never been more in.” Forgive them, God, though they know what they are doing.

While using the word “murdering” to describe what pregnant mothers and doctors do when they choose abortion (and by extension those who support them) seems inflammatory and controversial, using the word “killing” must be immediately clear to everyone as appropriate. Murder, we could probably all agree, is the unjustified killing of an innocent human being. But using medical words like “fetus” rather than “baby” causes some to think that what’s in the womb isn’t quite human (even after they look at the pictures), yet if we did think that what we killed in the womb was a human being, then why shouldn’t we call it murder? So all the red herrings about women’s rights aside (I say red herrings because it is putting the cart of rights before the horse of identifying what it is abortion does), here’s what I propose we do. Before getting embroiled in a heated emotional rant about which side is eating babies or oppressing women, we need to answer a simple question.

That question is: Can we kill it?

Kill what? A developing human being or something that is quite living but isn’t quite human yet and therefore morally neutral to kill? I think the science speaks for itself. What we have is an individual with its own DNA and blood type quite distinct from the body of the mother with a functioning brain, heart, nervous system, and all the other necessities to sustain a mammalian life form. The woman’s body is not at issue here as much as the body of the little creature developing inside her which gets conveniently left out of the discussion. It seems logical to suppose that traversing the birth canal doesn’t magically bestow humanity on anyone, but that it has more to do with our nature, genetics, and our mind. Clearly, the fetus has human genetics and an active mind which should lodge her firmly in the “human” category.

So here’s the argument that many Pro-Choicers want to avoid and others just haven’t thought about yet:

1) It is wrong to kill an innocent human being without proper justification.

2) Elective Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being without proper justification.

3) Therefore, abortion is wrong.

It’s hard not to think of taking someone’s life for our own convenience as anything but murder. What else could it be? But, there’s good news amidst all of today’s infanticide. Good news for those who have been involved in it. God grants forgiveness through the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Like the soldier falling on a grenade to save his comrades, Jesus physically took the death penalty in our place for the sins we’ve historically committed. They cannot be erased, except by the grace of God and the blood of Christ, for it would not do justice to simply forget evil and sweep it under the rug. All sin is punished either in us or, for those who trust in God to be true to his promises, in Jesus. And God proved the truth of this good news to everyone for all time, by physically raising Jesus back from the dead.

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Is homosexuality immoral? If so, what makes it so eeevil? No one’s getting hurt as long as both people are interested consenting adults, right? But adults are discerning enough to know that “hurt” doesn’t always appear instantly with a wince and an “ouch” when something bad is done. Please bear with me, as I am acutely aware that this is a touchy topic in this day and age. This is one of those issues that people are entrenched on one side or another and neither willing to discuss reasons for assumed conclusions. I bear no ill will toward gays, will stand with them to prosecute people who do violence to them, and fully believe I can be loving them and yet disagree with such a lifestyle. In fact, I believe I wouldn’t be loving if I didn’t disagree because, if I’m right about the immorality of it, it’s objective reality for everyone not just me so then those who hear may actually benefit from listening. I’m not singling out homosexuals as particularly bad people any more so than I would be, rather I’m just singling out this one particular issue to discuss. Personal choice and autonomy is where the arguments like to stay but I’ll choose instead not to skip the moral question from the get-go, but try to explain a few reasons why I think homosexuality isn’t moral.

The nature of the issue actually seems clear except by those of our culture, because even gender has been relativized and asserted away so that what’s probably the best argument against same-sex marriage has been conveniently removed, that being that gender matters to marriage. Boys and girls were made for each other. I know that sounds tremendously reductionistic to many but it sounds like an understatement to others. Even atheists have spoken out to this effect, so I know I’m not sitting on this issue with a merely “religious” (i.e. subjective personal belief) complaint. Nor am I suggesting that whatever relationship doesn’t work to “multiply” the species isn’t worth uniting. I’m merely advancing that we think about the reasons why it may or may not be moral, which gets to the nature of humanity and marriage.

First, what reasons do the same-sex marriage advocate give for arguing that it is moral? They’re the ones with the burden of proof since what they are fighting for is virtually unprecedented in human history. Also, if morality, marriage, and family are relative terms, relative to what? Personal wants or reality? We can’t all be right about reality, but we can all be wrong. When it comes right down to it, this issue as any other will bring us to a battle of worldviews. Those that think there is a nature or design inherent in the concept of marriage and those who think marriage is whatever we say it is. Also The Maker figures into it. If there’s a God, what evidence is there and what evidence is there to support that he’s even communicated to us? And why aren’t we even trying to find out as enthusiastically as we look for entertainment? Why is it that even when we know a moral issue when we see one that we don’t follow it anyway? What is morality even founded upon, if not God himself? Who are you to judge, right? God is the only one big enough and fair enough to be the judge. If so, and if God has made his designs and purposes clear to us, then because He says so would be enough and obedience would be for our good, but then I’m the curious type who always wants to know why He says so. In my experience, there are always good reasons.

Second, if it’s between consenting adults, what’s the matter with it? This seems to be the number one reason why same-sex marriage should be a thing. In other words, mutual actions that don’t harm anyone must be moral. Does not hurting people always constitute moral behavior? What do we mean by hurt? Consenting adults should hardly be the bar we set for what’s granted special status let alone moral.

Third, why’s it bad? 1) Changing the concept of marriage changes the very elementary, most basic unit of society, the family. This is already happening. Media tries to portray a variety of family types as perfectly normal above and beyond what they call “the nuclear family.” It’s not “normal family?” Sure a single mom deserves respect for the hardship of raising a child well, but it does little to deny that having been married to a dad to help carry the hardship would’ve been better, and wisdom dictates having one dad and one mom (the natural design) is healthier and better than having two moms or two dads. Advocates of same-sex marriage insist the numbers are fair and that families of gay parents don’t suffer, but others show the very opposite numbers. Instead of being alarmed and calling for a redo, most see this as proof that we all need to choose for ourselves because everyone’s studies are fixed. Normal is what we make it, we’re told, not dependent on nature or design. In other words, humans are somehow above their nature or design? The most basic element of our society is at stake (much like how “no fault divorce” has messed families up by creating new “varieties” of family). If marriage is just a contract, then that’s going to be bad for business… 2) it actually goes against basic nature. Some studies try to show that gay sex happens in nature, but even if they’re right (so what? Animals and humans are worlds apart), these studies end up proving that even in nature homosexuality is a rare deviation from nature. Wisdom at the very least indicates that we try our best to include reality and nature in the way we live, yet we resist wisdom because we are “born that way” as if that excuses us from growing up. This curious phenomenon seems unique to the human. We know the oughts but yet don’t do them. By nature I mean to make a distinction between living naturally according to design and succumbing to our baser nature of sinful desires. Homosexuality, like other harmful (vs. beneficial) lusts, is the later.

Far from allowing the homosexual man or woman to “be themselves” the insidious deceit of homosexuality causes the man or woman to rebel against being themselves. Their DNA says one thing, but they are doing another. Thus homosexuality represents not something glorious and evolved about humanity but humanity’s rebellion at its most extreme by rebelling even against itself, who we’re made to be. It’s a snake eating itself. The wrong inherent in homosexuality is a profound prevention of freedom to be themselves. As an American, that’s a good reason to oppose the moral approval of it alone, but the stakes are even higher for those who realize that we live in a theistic universe, that is, one purposefully made by God. All three of the world’s main monotheistic religions clearly place homosexual behavior and lust in the category of sin, not arbitrarily because priests wanted all the boys to themselves but due to humanity’s design and purpose in being beings of worship made in the image of God to reflect his awesomeness. Everybody worships. It’s just a matter of who or what we worship. The truth of the object of our worship then makes all the difference.

Tolerance is not the key to Harmony, conforming to the Truth is. But until then, the same-sex marriage advocate needs to tolerate others’ convictions that marriage isn’t whatever we say it is.

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