Thursday, March 29, 2007

Context Makes All of the Difference

The other day I heard the song called “I’ll do my Best” by Go Fish and I couldn’t help but feel more motivated to love, serve and worship my God and Savior because of that song. The song has very simple and repetitive lyrics, but I find that there is power in repetition when you sing, teach or preach to people of any age.

Love, I’ll Love,
I’ll Love You Lord forever (repeat)

I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best,
Oh I’ll do my best for You (repeat)

Serve, I’ll Serve,
I’ll Serve You Lord forever (repeat)

I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best,
Oh I’ll do my best for You (repeat)

Praise, I’ll Praise,
I’ll Praise You Lord forever (repeat)

I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best,
Oh I’ll do my best for You (repeat)

I’ll Love, I’ll Serve,
I’ll Praise You Lord forever (repeat)

I’ll do my best, I’ll do my best,
Oh I’ll do my best for You (repeat)
When I think about these lyrics, depending on who is singing, that person could be acting in an absolutely heretical and abominable way toward God or their actions could be a pleasing and right response to His grace. Let me explain what I mean.

There are two, and only two, different types of religion in the world. There is the religion of human achievement that builds any hope of pleasing God, attaining heaven, or some other goal upon what I can do. In other words, God may do some, or even most, of the work in order to get me saved but my own contribution is what makes the difference. This type of religious thinking and action toward God is an abomination and He will not deal kindly with them when He judges them no matter if the person claims the name of Christ or not.

You see, this type of religion doesn’t see sin in its proper context, and therefore the adherents believe that by doing certain things they make up for any sin that they may (or may not) have done.1 This philosophy cheapens God’s glory to something that Man can, on some level, measure up to as well as it lessens the treasonous nature of all sin and diminishes the horror of sin. Basically, it makes God more like man, man more like God, and sin more like holiness. Not to mention that this type of idea, especially when it is inside of label of Christianity, makes a mockery of the cross of Christ.

The second type of religion in the world is one of Divine accomplishment, or Justification by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:20-28; Galatians 2:16; 3:1-18). In this system, and only true Christianity has this as one of the foundational principles of salvation, God does 100% of everything to bring people into a right relationship with Him. God remains totally holy and man remains utterly sinful, and yet this sinful man is able to be made right with God and is able to be in fellowship with Him. This is all made possible by the virgin birth, the perfect and sinless life, the substitutional and sacrificial atoning death, and the victorious resurrection of the eternal second Person of the Triune Godhead; the God-Man Jesus Christ.

The song lyrics above are blasphemous if coming from that first mindset where the person thinks that he is able to do something in order to be made right and acceptable before God. However, if they are sung in the way that the artist intended and they come from the foundation of justification by faith alone in Christ Jesus and they are an outpouring of gratitude from a person in that position…well, then they are most correct and acceptable before a Holy God.

The context makes every difference with this type of mentality. If this is the way that one is seeking to be justified, then it is heresy and that person will end up in hell. However, if this is the response to justification by faith, it is the picture of what sanctification looks like in the redeemed Body of Christ. We dare not mingle or confuse these two glorious truths (Justification and Sanctification) from God’s Word or we will show that our faith is not in the True God, but yet another created god and religious ideas that will end up with those who follow and believe in hell.

1 I say “or may not” because many religious people believe that they are good and do not believe that they sin much (if at all) and have a very self righteous attitude.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sexual Confusion as the Result of the Fall

On my way to work this morning, I was able to have a very stimulating conversation with my wife. Our conversation began when I told her that I had listened to a radio program yesterday and there was a segment where the various Christian ideas of creation were brought up. During the program I was pointed to a very good textual reason why Christians cannot be theistic evolutionists (i.e. God used the Darwinian theory of evolution to create the world). When I asked my wife if she knew what text or phrase that would be, she unhesitatingly stated, “the fact that each kind of animal only produces its own kind….”

I was very impressed with my wife. Not because that she knew it or even the fact that she so quickly answered me (although both of those things are impressive), but it was more do to the fact that she has apparently known this for some time whereas I was just seeing the dots connected between the theory of evolution and the creation account in Genesis in this way.

We went from discussing this concept of creation and the fact that Old Earth Creationists and (theistic) evolutionists are unable to satisfactorily address the issue of death prior to the fall of man. My wife then transitioned the conversation to another issue relating to the Genesis account that I would like to ponder for a bit.

In a previous article I have written about the possibility of the fact that adamantly stating that certain sinful proclivities have no root in the genes or the physiological makeup of an individual may be a bit misguided. My point has been to say that whatever the reason for why some people have very strong homosexual tendencies (it is usually in dealing with the issue of homosexuality that this “natural” argument comes up) is not the real issue that Christians ultimately must be concerned about.

One of the reasons why I say that this is not the main issue because God’s Word is clear in defining sexual immorality and homosexuality as being utterly sinful (there’s absolutely no wiggle room there). The second reason deals not with the biblical text but with the reason (as I understand it) for the claim that homosexuality is natural or, “I was born this way.” The reason, as I see it, that this objection or rationale is used is so that the individual can say that since it is natural, it must be okay in God’s eyes or even if it is wrong, I’m not responsible because “I was born this way.”

Ultimately the use of whatever logic or arguments that sexual deviants (by behavior) want to use fall in the same category as do those arguments in favor of evolution. The Darwinian understanding of natural macro-evolution is a man-made structure that goes to great lengths to deny the existence of God, not primarily because of His role in creation but because of His role as Lawgiver and Judge.

So how does this all merge together? Well, Stephanie made a great comment about how when God said to Eve, "Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16b) I think that it is interesting that God set up the created order with Adam being in authority and Eve was created to be his helper (cf. Genesis 2:18-25), or stated another way, it is for man to bear the responsibility of leading and for women to bear the responsibility for obeying. On a side note, we see that there is no disgrace or second class status associated with the one who is in subjection, for we see that Christ is in subjection to the Father in the same way. “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3; cf. Ephesians 5:21-30)

Getting back to Genesis 3, the point of “your desire will be for your husband” is not that she will desire her husband sexually (because the sexual process and drive were created and in place before the fall (Genesis 1:22, 28) but it refers to a changing or perverting of how she understands and deals with (for lack of a better term) her position as being the helper and one who’s role is to submit to her husband’s authority. This word is used in three places and perhaps the most helpful text is Genesis 4:7 referring to Cain’s temptation to sin.

“[The Hebrew word for desire] refers to sin’s desire to control and dominate Cain. (Even in Song of Songs it carries the basic idea of “control,” for it describes the young man’s desire to “have his way sexually” with the young woman.) In Gen 3:16 the Lord announces a struggle, a conflict between the man and the woman. She will desire to control him, but he will dominate her instead. This interpretation also fits the tone of the passage, which is a judgment oracle.”1
Here is where my pondering about the correlation (if there is one) between the principle of Genesis 3:16b and the issue of homosexuality. My thought is that Eve’s temptation and proclivity would be to usurp her husband’s authority which is his because of God’s design in the sexes. Therefore, she has a proclivity or a very real temptation for something that is natural to man in an unfallen state. Could it be that the sin of homosexuality has its root in this same part of the fall – that men or women seek to rebel against the created order and roles for each?

There is no denying that homosexuality is the result of man’s rebellion against God in the fall (just like heterosexual fornication, adultery, and other perversions of sex between man and woman inside of the marriage covenant), but my only point here is that there might be a correlation between the sexual confusion that Eve (and all women after her) experienced toward the leadership of her husband and that of some men and women who have a heightened confusion over the actual sexual relationship between men and women.

This is all to say that the temptation to sin in the area of homosexuality may be as “natural” as the temptation to lust, to be envious, or to be greedy. I admit that my hypothesis that the problem of homosexual tendencies may be rooted, in some form, in the same part of the curse that causes women to want to control their husbands is just that, a hypothesis. I look forward to discussion on this to examine the Bible to see if there is any merit to this, or if it needs to be discarded.

Again, let me reiterate my stance that no matter what modern science or psychology says about this issue, our mandate is clear from God. Whether the academic and scientific communities in our time conclude that there is a “gay gene” or not has no effect on how we are to deal with this issue. Sin is sin whether we say that the cause is genetic or if we say that the cause is that we are all sons and daughters of Adam, and we share the responsibility and the fate that Adam incurred when he sinned. Furthermore, Romans 1 seems to make it clear that the lifestyle of sinning in homosexuality is the result of the continuing and blatant rebelling against God.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,” (Romans 1:24-28)
The bible is clear. Let us share the gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit will illumine our understanding of His Word through careful study and fervent prayer. Soli Deo Gloria.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Thought for Fathers

I was listening to a sermon by the late Adrian Rodgers called “The Battle for the Bible” where he was preaching from the book of Jude about how Christians need to contend earnestly for the faith. Right away this sermon has a few things going for it that helped to grab and keep my attention.

The first thing is that Adrian Rodgers was a very powerful and moving gospel preacher. Part of the reason for this was the fact that he had a very powerful and booming voice, and he knew how to use it. The second thing is that he was preaching out of the epistle that has been used by God to awaken my heart and mind to a need for study and proclamation of the Word of God. He was preaching from the book of Jude. It should be no surprise at how important this book is in my life, because from it, both the title of my blog and my general attitude toward Christian matters has been derived.

Out of all of the many things that Pastor Rodgers said, I found myself fascinated by one fact that was fairly insignificant to his whole sermon. He was referencing the fact that if we do not contend and strive for the truth and for the faith that the downfall could be great in our own life time. He spoke about Jude’s reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and made the point that these cities knew about God’s judgment. In fact he said that one of Noah’s sons (Shem), who came through the flood, was still living at that time.

I had never heard anyone say that before. I had never thought about the possibility that Noah or Shem would have been alive during Abraham’s life. And I suppose that if someone would have asked me, I would have guessed that they both would have been dead before Abraham’s time or at least when he was very young. But if we understand the genealogies of the bible as communicating literal years without gaps between the generations, as I think that we should, then we can easily see that Shem was alive when Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed.

Shem was born at about 1559 After Creation (A.C.) and that he lived to be 600 and died in 2159. If we follow the times given in Genesis, we see that Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 in the year 2049. But Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed one year earlier because when He was sending the angels down to Sodom and Gomorrah, God said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” (Genesis 18:10) So this means that Shem lived for 100 years after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even though there were many potential barriers between Shem and the rest of humanity at that time (land, language, etc.), there was still the living witness of God’s mercy in salvation and His wrath in judgment that people could have listened to.

(Click here to see a chart of the genealogy)

So what is my point? Just because I am saved and I have been delivered by God from sin and death (like Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, and their wives) doesn’t mean that my children or grandchildren will be. Even if I am convinced of the gospel, proclaiming it until the day that I die, and, like Noah, I am even known as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), that doesn’t ensure that my grandchildren will believe. Knowing that this is true, this is even more of a reason for fathers (like myself) to be extremely diligent and to view the spiritual instruction of our children with the utmost importance and urgency.

Will some of my children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren reject the cross of Christ and die in their sins? I hope and pray not. But I must live and execute my life in such a way that I will not be responsible for the dilapidation of the testimony of the gospel in the eyes of my family. We must contend for the faith, teach our children constantly, and pray for God’s ever-present mercy to be placed upon ourselves, our families, and those to whom we preach.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Throughout the 2006 – 2007 school year I have been teaching my way through the Ten Commandments during the teaching time of our church’s Awana program. Last night was the final installment of these exploratory and explanatory lessons from God’s moral law as given to Moses. On many of the lessons I felt a bit like I was simply clubbing the children over the head with something that they have (hopefully) been taught by their parents for years.

Well, last night I was able to teach on the sin of coveting. For some reason this subject caused me a little pause in the early part of my preparation. It was nothing similar to the concern or trepidation that I felt when I was preparing to speak to eight to twelve year-old children about adultery without telling them more than they should hear (there is a lot of difference in those four or five years), or without producing premature questions or thoughts in their little and (somewhat) innocent minds. I think that I was afraid that the children might not grasp the concept of coveting, but they caught on pretty quick.

In order to grab and maintain their attention as well as convey a theme we played hangman. It is one of my favorite ways to do something a little different and fun, but yet still remain on task while setting a foundation for a thorough lesson. The words “want”, “envy”, “T.V. Commercials”, “desire”, and finally “covet” were the ones that we looked at in order to give the children a good idea of the scope of coveting.

Coveting is basically wanting, or desiring, to have something that you do not currently have. The children seemed to be getting it and I was very pleased with the attentiveness as well as the participation during the teaching (non-hangman) time. After I gave examples of coveting that are so easy for kids (young and old alike) to fall into at almost any time, I closed by asking them how we now use the knowledge of these commandments.

One of the main purposes for the Christian in life is to evangelize and spread the message of the Bible to those who are not saved. I asked the children that when they witness and say that “Jesus can save you,” or “Jesus saves,” the question that many people will ask is, “Save me from what?” Well, we can use the Ten Commandments to show anyone that God has this standard (don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t hate, don’t covet, etc) and that by breaking His law, He must punish us. We use this Law to show people exactly how we have offended God, and with a little bit of effort we can also show that we offend God constantly in almost all of these areas.

I was very content with my lesson in that I thought that the children understood what I was trying to say and that they had a mental understanding of some areas of potential coveting that they could watch out for. I closed the lesson with a prayer that they children (as well as myself) would think about the Ten Commandments when we pray so that we can see ourselves more and more clearly as God sees us and so that we would be more mindful of our future actions.

After the closing prayer I dismissed the children and began packing up in order to head home. I was caught off guard when a sweet little girl (4th grade) came up and asked me this question. “Is it a sin to want something for your birthday?” Wow! I was very blessed and impressed by this question. I was blessed because it showed that she had understood the lesson about coveting enough to apply it to her own life in a way that I had not described. I was blessed because it is such a sweet thing to hear a child (or anyone for that matter) try to determine if something that they do is sinful. This was truly a joyful experience and opportunity for me.

This question is a delicate one, and I didn’t want to put her off into a ditch on either side. Simply wanting a new toy or new clothes for your birthday is not coveting. However, it is when we move from simply thinking “I could use that…” or “It would be fun to have…” over to a consuming desire for stuff and things that catch our eye. Basically, if I want something or multiple things so much that this desire begins to consume me, that is where it crosses the line into coveting.

I’m not sure how much that little girl liked my answer to her question, but I sure am grateful and very blessed that she is at least struggling with how to apply the 10th commandment to her young life.

To God alone be the glory.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A discussion on baptism

A while ago, I listened to a discussion on the topic of baptism on a local radio program is called “The Pastor’s Study.” This program is a talk radio style show where the host, a Lutheran minister named Tom Brock, decries various heresies in all Christian organizations and denominations, answers callers Bible questions, and facilitates discussions on various spiritually significant topics. The quick back story on this man, the church he pastors, and his radio program is that, from all that I can tell, this is a Lutheran who preaches the gospel and gets it right. I only say that in this way because there are so many wayward Lutheran churches around today (hello E.L.C.A.) that have stopped preaching the true gospel.

Having stated that, I don’t totally agree with the ideas or theology espoused by pastor Brock or the other pastors from his church who sometimes co-host the show with him. Some of his angles on Spiritual gifts and the deliverance ministry have caused me to raise an eyebrow from time to time, but I haven’t heard any in depth discussion on these issues like what I heard concerning baptism a few days ago.

The program was setup as a forum to discuss this issue between two pastors from two different perspectives; Lutheran and Baptist. Unfortunately Tom was on a sabbatical and therefore not present for this program (although he did pre-record his response to the very first question), so the Executive pastor of Hope Lutheran church, Rich Carr, stepped in to provide the Lutheran perspective. David Livingston (a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church) was brought in to provide the Baptist perspective in this discussion.

Before I delve further into this issue, I must be honest and forthright by saying that I knew that I was going to have a natural disposition to favor Pastor Livingston and what he had to say because he is a man who articulates the same theology that I hold (i.e. believer’s baptism). I don’t think that this affected my opinion of the way that the different perspectives were argued, though. I was very impressed with Pastor Livingston’s presentation of his (Baptist) side of the discussion and I was somewhat equally unimpressed with the way that Pastor Carr presented his side (Lutheran). I don’t say that as a direct reflection upon the merits of either side, but only as a comment on the presentation of the material.

I had been looking forward to this program for a week, both because of the topic and because of the two views that would be espoused. I was especially looking to get some clarification on what Lutheran’s believe on this issue. My concerns at what I would hear (or have confirmed) from the Lutheran perspective was, sadly, evident even before the discussion was underway. Prior to taking the commercial break before the opening of the debate, the host of the show (another elder from Hope Lutheran Church named Brian) was setting up the parameters for the discussion along the lines of two main questions;

  1. Is baptism necessary for salvation?
  2. Assuming that the answer to the first question is “yes”, is infant baptism permissible?
I don’t mean any disrespect to the host, but setting up the discussion in this manner seems to presuppose that baptism is necessary for salvation and that both Lutherans and Baptists believe that this is true. I think that the way that this discussion was framed showed a classic case of misunderstanding your audience or your opponent, and in this case it was the Lutheran’s who were guilty of this error.

The first discussion/debate segment opened with Rich Carr and a recorded Tom Brock giving their affirmation that baptism is necessary for salvation. They both mentioned a few passages as proof texts for this belief (1 Peter 3:21,22; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19; Acts 22:16).

The most compelling (on the face of it) given text for the idea of baptismal regeneration seems to be the passage in 1 Peter 3.
“Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” (1 Peter 3:21,22)

I briefly dealt with this passage in a previous article1, but the more I see this text used in order to provide scriptural backing for the idea that water baptism is the act that saves people, the more I feel the need to re-address it. And I will do just that later on in this article.

The other passages that were brought up are not convincing as convincing for the perspective that baptism causes people to be born again. For instance, look at Mark 16:16. "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” The passage says that you will be condemned if you…do not believe; it doesn’t say that you will be condemned if you are not baptized.

You see, the articulated point by my Lutheran brothers is that Baptism is necessary for salvation, but if you cannot get baptized because of some extenuating circumstance, you still may be alright and be saved. Notice the “but” in the middle of the previous sentence. How can something be necessary or required for salvation but at the same time not be required? In other words, that which is required for the salvation of an individual is always required, it is not sometimes required.

The cross-examination objection to my above statement was one that somewhat troubled me as well as the fact that it seemed to open up a whole new can of worms. The objection that was raised was aimed at my understanding of what happens to children when they die. From everything that I could gather, the Lutheran perspective says that baptized babies go to heaven while non-baptized babies go to hell. Again, this rests on the idea that baptism does some supernatural work in beginning the salvation process.2 The question posed to Pastor Livingston was basically this, “If we are saved by faith, and babies cannot express faith in the manner that the New Testament speaks of, how then can God bring children to heaven?” The angle here, I believe, was to show an “exception” to the theology that we are saved by faith alone and only by faith alone (not through baptism).

Pastor Livingston went to the text that came to my mind right away (2 Samuel 12:23) and argued that David seemed to indicate that he would be with his son in heaven. Pastor Livingston then made a point to say that he would not build an entire theology on an inference from this verse, but that if it is alongside other principles in Scripture, that it is a compelling verse showing that infants are saved outside of the “normal” plan of salvation. I agree with that statement. Furthermore, I would argue that the doctrine that children who die before they are able to understand sin in anyway that constitutes an intentional rebellion against God is berthed more out of the mercy of God. And it is that understanding that is taken to the best verse that we have articulating a biblical example of a child dying in this way.

I must also bring up a compelling argument for the fact that babies (specifically) are a separate and distinct kind of issue relating to eternal life. For this I would make the point that all people are sinful because of our sin in Adam. But, Romans 5:14 says, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” John Piper described the concept of sinning “in the likeness of the offense of Adam” (Romans 5:14) as sinning against an explicit law “whether written on their heart, or spoken out of heaven, or written on the tablets of Mount Sinai.”3
I said Paul sees this objection coming and, I think, that's why he adds the next words in verse 14. He doesn't stop by saying, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses. . ." He goes on to add the very crucial words, "[Death reigned] even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam." In other words, yes he concedes that there are other kinds of laws before the Mosaic Law, and yes people broke those laws, and yes, one could argue that these sins are the root cause of death and condemnation in the world. But, he says, there is a problem with that view, because death reigned "even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam." There are those who died without seeing a law and choosing to sin against it.

Who are they? I think the group of people begging for an explanation is infants. Infants died. They could not understand personal revelation. They could not read the law on their hearts and choose to obey or disobey it. Yet they died. Why? Paul answers: the sin of Adam and the imputation of that sin to the human race. In other words, death reigned over all humans, even over those who did not sin against a known and understood law. Therefore, the conclusion is, to use the words of verse 18: "through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men."4

To be totally fair, there is not resounding agreement that this text is referring to babies. And Piper goes on to argue for this understanding when he said,
“I have read lots of commentaries on this that say, “Infants? They’re not in Paul’s mind. That is so extraneous to the context.”5 I don’t think it is. Because, if you are facing a period of history before 9/11, before neo-natal, before the knowledge of infection and germs, when virtually three-fourths of every baby born doesn’t live through the first year, and you’re saying that death is a consequence of sin, you gotta have an answer; you gotta say something about that. And there are those who were dying in that period who did not sin ‘after the likeness of the offense of Adam’, namely babies.”6

“This does not exclude the dominion of death over such who had sinned after the likeness of Adam, but rather confirms its power over them; nor does it intend adult Gentiles, who did not sin in the same manner, nor against the same law, as Adam did; but it designs infants, not yet guilty of actual sin; and therefore since death reigns over them, who only holds and exercises his dominion by virtue of sin, it follows, that they must have original sin in them; the guilt of Adam's transgression must be imputed to them, and the corruption of nature, from him, derived unto them, or it could not reign over them.”7
It seems to me that there is a distinction, not in the penalty of sin, but in the presence of sinning that may be related to the cognitive understanding of what the individual is doing in light of the law written on the heart or revealed by God in scripture. There is also an example of God making a distinction between those who choose to rebel and those who do not choose to rebel that we can see in the account how God dealt with the nation of Israel when they were afraid to enter Canaan. God caused all of the generation who had seen His miraculous deeds to die in the desert without seeing the Promised Land. Only Caleb and Joshua would enter into the promise from their generation, but along with them would go all of the children of the nation (Number 14:31).

Now, obviously this story is not referring to God’s saving or special treatment of certain persons in a salvific way. However, I think that it does show an example of God choosing to lavish mercy upon Israel’s young but not upon others. Also, I think that it would be a mistake to believe that only Aaron, Caleb, and Moses were the only “true believers” at this time. There were certainly other believers in the nation at that time who were doomed to wander in the desert for the sin of the nation. So, likewise, it would be false to read a negative salvific implication into the text for those condemned to wander in the wilderness.

In summary, there is no overly explicit passage in the Bible that I am aware of stating that God saves babies who die before they are able to defy God at a certain level based upon His mercy. However, many protestants (including virtually all of those whom I have had contact with) would agree that a conclusion that God could or would do such a thing, even though it is outside of the normal parameters for the salvation of mankind (e.g. an exception to the rule), and it would line up with His character and nature.8 That is why the text in 2 Samuel, although not explicit, is so critical to this idea because it shows that David knew that he would be with his son eventually, and that gave him joy. He would not have derived joy from his rotting body lying next to the already decomposed body of his son.

I make the argument strongly here because it is in this situation, while I fully admit that the salvation of babies who die is an exception to the general rule of salvation for the rest of mankind, because it is only on account of God’s grace and not by some act of obedience by the parent or clergy. Furthermore, the bible verses that were used to back up the idea of baptismal regeneration lack any real teeth when it comes to scripture.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19)
This passage is conveying an order of living; first you are made a disciple and then you are baptized. To say that one is baptized and is a disciple and has eternal life is horribly wrong. Tom Brock has made a joke on a few occasions about the various “heresies” of the Lutheran and Baptist churches. The Baptist “heresy” is when pastors teach that if you pray a prayer at one time, you’re saved regardless of any fruit that is produced throughout your life. The Lutheran “heresy” has to do with the fact that someone is saved by communion but only if it is confirmed in confirmation.9 I agree totally with his concerns about the Baptist “heresy”, it is often referred to as “easy believism” and it is something that I have decried on in my writings. But, if the idea that something truly happens at baptism on an eternal level (i.e. eternal life is granted), then how can it ever be lost? Eternal life is the Christian’s present possession (John 3:36; 6:47; 10:28), and eternal life (by implication and Scriptural revelation) cannot be lost once it is given.
“Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16)
This was what Ananias instructed Paul to do after he had been given back his sight. We always must be careful of making too much of a doctrinal position based upon a historical narrative like Acts. I’m not saying that we discount what is recorded in acts (may it never be!), but I am saying that we must be careful to interpret the text rightly. Paul himself writes the following about salvation in his letter to the Galatians:

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:2-5)
What’s the point? Paul’s whole argument here is that Christians are saved by faith, and not by works of the Law. We are saved in the same manner that Abraham was saved, and that is through a promise, but not through an act on our part.

Finally, I want to try and deal with the passage that seemingly is explicit about the fact that we are saved through the act of water baptism.
“Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” (1 Peter 3:21,22)
First of all, in this context, Peter is saying that the act of baptism corresponds to how Noah and his family were saved. What saved Noah? Obviously it was God, but how did He do it? It wasn’t the waters of the flood that saved Noah, but it was the ark that saved them. The waters were the outpouring of God’s wrath, but the ark was God’s gift of salvation (temporal, to be sure, but salvation none the less).

So, if our salvation is corresponding to the story of Noah and the ark, how doe it correspond? Well we know that God’s wrath is demonstrated in the waters of the flood (Genesis 6:13,17) and that corresponds to our burial and symbolic death in baptism (Colossians 2:12), and death is the outpouring of God’s wrath because of sin (Romans 6:23). Peter himself tells us how this story relates to salvation when he says, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;” (1 Peter 3:18).

Peter shows us how God saves us, and it is through the once for all death of Christ! How does this correspond to Noah’s story? It was through the ark. Jesus endured the full wrath of God on our behalf on the cross (Mark 10:38, Luke 12:50) so that we might be made righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) just as the ark of wood endured the floodwaters of God’s wrath. Furthermore, Peter makes it clear that it is not the actual water ceremony that does anything, “not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). The appeal to God is made through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9; Galatians 3:8,14), and not by any work.10

1 “Baptism” Tuesday, November 21, 2006

2 I don’t know if this is the way that proponents of infant baptism would articulate it, but I cannot think of a way to characterize the position without saying that it “begins the salvation process” or that baptism actually saves someone, and calling it “baptismal regeneration.”

3 Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 2 by John Piper, June 25, 2000 (Personally transcribed from the audio of the sermon)

4 Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 2 by John Piper, June 25, 2000

5 “But who are they?--a much contested question. Infants (say some), who being guiltless of actual sin, may be said not to have sinned in the way that Adam did [AUGUSTINE, BEZA, HODGE]. But why should infants be specially connected with the period "from Adam to Moses," since they die alike in every period? And if the apostle meant to express here the death of infants, why has he done it so enigmatically? Besides, the death of infants is comprehended in the universal mortality on account of the first sin, so emphatically expressed in Romans 5:12; what need then to specify it here? and why, if not necessary, should we presume it to be meant here, unless the language unmistakably point to it--which it certainly does not? The meaning then must be, that "death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those that had not, like Adam, transgressed against a positive commandment, threatening death to the disobedient." (So most interpreters). In this case, the particle "even," instead of specifying one particular class of those who lived "from Adam to Moses" (as the other interpretation supposes), merely explains what it was that made the case of those who died from Adam to Moses worthy of special notice--namely, that "though unlike Adam and all since Moses, those who lived between the two had no positive threatening of death for transgression, nevertheless, death reigned even over them." ("Commentary on Romans 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". By Brown, David, D.D. . 1871.)

6 Adam, Christ, and Justification, Part 2 by John Piper, June 25, 2000 (Personally transcribed from the audio of the sermon) (25 Minutes into the audio)

7 Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 5:14". "John Gill's Exposition of the Bible". . 1999.

8 I have heard James White mention a view (whether he holds it or just defends the possibility that this could be true, I don’t know) that since God has the unhindered ability to choose people to come to Himself, why should that only be limited to adults. Basically, he was talking about the concept of elect and non-elect babies. I don’t hold to this view (as is evident from my article here), but in principle, this is a very static and consistent application of the doctrine of election. That doesn’t mean that those Christians, myself included, who believe that babies who die are brought to heaven are not consistent, it means that we just believe that God has elected all babies.

9 To be fair, I don’t think that I articulated these points (at least the Lutheran one) in the exact same way that pastor Brock did I can only plead to you for some charity in how this was stated. The basic point that I believe he was getting at was that there are serious problems with both the system of infant baptism and confirmation as well as with the “system” of modern Baptist style evangelists of walking an aisle, signing a card, praying a prayer, etc.

10 Sometimes opponents will say that faith is a work. Ephesians is clear that faith is a gift from God, and it is not a work nor is it of ourselves.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm Buyin' a Shot Gun...

That was one of my first statements upon finding out that Stephanie is pregnant with a girl. We're so excited!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Profane or not Profane? That is the Question.

Before you read this article, please know that there are words and phrases used in this article – both created by me and quotations of others – that I consider profane. Because of the subject matter and the way in which this issue was raised, there is no way to really communicate the stark contrast in views of how Christians can use language without showing examples. Please be aware and read (or don’t read) accordingly.

Last Friday I called a radio show to express some concern over a song that was played for bumper music. Now, before I get pigeon-holed for something that I am not, I want to setup the scenario. The Internet radio show, the Narrow Mind, is a fun program covering many of the different types of things that interest me – theology, apologetics, and other things – and I have enjoyed listening to it ever since I found it a few weeks ago.

One of the “catchy” things (for me, anyway) was the style of bed music that the host chose to have during the breaks. The music tends to be more…driven. By that I mean that the music is more rock/hard rock in style. I was a head-bangin’, air guitar playin’, thrash metal listening born-again Christian. I listened to groups like Deliverance and Tourniquet, but I did my best to avoid the secular heavy metal groups. So, hearing this type of music on a Christian broadcast, even if only in short bursts, is fun for me. This is all to say that I do not have any negative knee-jerk reaction to hard rock/heavy metal music as a style.

Well, when listening to this radio program I heard some provocative and somewhat questionable lyrics on one of the songs. Knowing that sometimes words can sound different than intended, I googled the lyrics that I could definitely make out and I was directed to a song by the secular (definitely not Christian) band, Nickelback with their song “Throw Yourself Away.” Here are the lyrics from the portion of the song that can be heard on the program (at least the few times that I heard it),

Baby's born on a bathroom floor
Her mother prays that it'll never cry
But nothing's wrong you've got your prom dress on
When they ask you'll say "it isn't mine"
You know there gonna know you lied

Why the hell don't you throw yourself away?
You know there gonna burn it down

Wash my, hands of this
You notice how god ain't even helping you out1
Again, the above lyrics are not the exhaustive lyrics from the song, just the lyrics that are able to be heard when listening to the show.2 After reading the lyrics that I had been listening to, I was a little shocked and confused as to what possible reason could there be to use a song with a profanity in it. This is what prompted me to call. When I called, I had a very good natured discussion/debate with Pastor Gene Cook Jr., but we failed to see eye to eye on this issue.3

I asked him if he was aware that the song this song in particular had profanity in it and his response was “not in the part that we play.”4 When I clarified my statement to refer to the word hell, the response I received at that time was hell is a biblical term. And if we’re making the statement that all words used in the Bible are not to be considered profanity, then any use of “ass” (Matthew 21:5 KJV), “bastard” (Deuteronomy 23:2 KJV), and various forms of the word “damnation” (Matthew 23:14.33 KJV) should not be considered profanity either.

I would agree that all of the above words – ass, bastard, and (forms of) damnation – are able to be used in a precise fashion and using their technical definitions in certain contexts that would be acceptable. That is very different that excusing the use of these words because they are Bible terms. For instance, referring to a donkey as an ass is very different than referring to a person as an ass. The same word is used, yes, but the use of that word in contemporary language refers to someone who is acting in a particular way (I say “particular” because the use is so broad, that it would be foolish to try and over define it here) or to refer to someone’s posterior. In any event, modern usage of the word “ass” is (except on rare occasion when reading from the Bible or when referring to a beast of burden) is not used in the same way that the Bible does.

In the same way, referring to hell as the eternal place of torment for those people who die in their sins is very different than telling someone to “go to H@&&” or saying “why the H@&&...”. My main point is basically that just because certain words are in the Bible, that doesn’t give us a free pass to use them in any way that we want to.

When I continued with my concern, Pastor Cook said that one reason that this song is used on his program was to demonstrate “the antithesis between the Christian mindset and the mindset of the worldly person.”5 He also went on to say that he plays this music intentionally in order to facilitate or encourage conversation with unbelievers. The reason for doing this is to share the gospel and to demonstrate how to talk to unbelievers.

I am in favor of creating an atmosphere where interaction with unbelievers is important for the reasons that Pastor Cook gave, but the problem is not with the intention, my problem is with using a song with profanity in it to accomplish this goal. I think that it is appropriate to consider various passages on Christian speech as a guideline for our spoken words in all arenas.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8)
“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:4)
The above passages specifically refer to the speech of a Christian and not to what Christians play on their radio or television programs (obviously). However, I don’t think that it is a stretch to say that if you host a radio or television show that you are responsible for what is said or done on it. In other words, if during my radio show I have an audio clip of someone telling crude jokes, I am responsible and accountable for that because it is my show. However, if I am doing a live program and a caller slips in a crude remark that I cannot get edited in time, that is different if, for no other reason, than I did not plan it nor did I sanction it.

Therefore, even though Pastor Cook (and his production team) didn’t actually speak the words from the Nickelback song, in a sense they are doing just that because they are intentionally placing that on the air as part of their show. My concern is that this does not fit with our call as Christians to speak good things that are not foolish, filthy, or full of rage.

However, the heart of where our disagreement lies is with how we define profanity differently. I personally think that Pastor Cook, with all due respect to the man (and I sincerely mean that), is being very inconsistent in his application of what is or is not profane. To get at the heart of this issue, I asked him if he would allow his son (I believe he has a school aged child) to use this language. He responded by saying that he wouldn’t, but he also does not allow his child to drink beer either, and that there are some things that are inappropriate for children to say, but the same things can be okay for an adult to say. That is a fair qualification to make even if I don’t think that it applies to the current issue, but I conceded that in order to move on.

I then asked him that if, hypothetically, he had a 22 year-old son who used that kind of language, would he consider it to be profane. Pastor Cook answered by saying that he would not defend the use of profanity by anyone. This gets us back to square-one with the question of is the use of the word “hell”, as done in the song by Nickelback, a profanity even though hell is a biblical term?

But before I can even get back to that issue with the example that I think proves my overall point, Pastor Cook asked me one more question.

The question that he asked me was, “What do you think [that] Jesus would think about two Christians arguing about whether it is appropriate to use ‘hell’ or not?”6 Well, if the reason for the discussion, debate, or argument is done with the goal of glorifying God and if the discussion is done so in a respectful manner (as I think that ours was), then I believe that Jesus would be pleased and glorified with this discussion. He is glorified because we are holding up the lofty calling of being a Christian and scrutinizing what we do to see if there is any fault in it.

I am not sure what answer he thought I would give or if this would be the question to ask that would ultimately dismiss my fairly intense scrutiny of this issue. But I think that my answer (and I stand by it) is true and that we should be in the business of scrutinizing what we do in an effort to not sin in our ministry. I cannot see the things that I do in the light that others can, and so naturally things can (and do) slip by me. I either do not see a problem or do not see an issue as a problem, and it takes a loving brother or sister in the Lord to bring up concerns that may or may not be legitimate.

The rest of the conversation and any follow-up conversations that I have had with others always comes back to what is defined as profanity and the rationale is either that hell is a biblical term or that God used “much worse word” than hell in the way that the culture used it that day in order to make a very strong point.7 I do not know what exact examples that Gene was referring to in Scripture, and I am skeptical that any scriptures would have use of terms that is the same as or worse than the lyrics of this song.

Perhaps the key to articulating my point would be with the use of other biblical terms. The words that I am referring to are “Jesus”, “Christ”, “God”, and a form of the word “damnation”. Now, I tread lightly here because I do want to make my point, but I do not want to sin in doing so. So, please bear with me.

We would agree (I hope) that saying “Jesus Christ is the only true Son of God, and that to reject His gospel result in your damnation,”8 is a correct use of the words that I referred to. I also hope that we would agree that if someone used these same words in a different way that it would be considered course, profane, and truly blasphemous. For instance, “J C, Gene, don’t use G-D’ed profanity on your radio program!”

My point in the above sentence, as well as my overall argument, is to show that just because certain words are in the Bible, that doesn’t give us a free pass to use them in any way that we want to. Granted, if said, the sentence that I constructed would definitely violate the third commandment by taking the Name of the Lord in vain, and in that sense it is not equivalent to the profane use of another word, but the principle of how to use words is very similar.


2 You can hear this excerpt on the 2/23/07 show (The Narrow Mind Show #750). You can click here to hear the song, it is the very first thing that is played as the introduction to this particular episode. Total length of the song excerpt is 50 seconds.

3 You can listen to the actual interchange between the host and myself by downloading/streaming The Narrow Mind Show #755 by clicking here. My conversation begins at 15 minutes into the show and lasts for about 14 minutes.

4 TNM #755 17:00 To be fair, he may have been thinking of the stanza where the lead singer is condemning the woman in the song by signing,

“Damn you for thinking we would never know
And damn you for thinking we would never mind
Only reason that you made it this far
You never asked him, but you never tried”
5 The Narrow Mind Show #750 18:30

6 During the actual radio conversation, the connection was not as good as it could be so I did not understand that he said “Jesus” (even after asking him to repeat himself), so my answer was not given exactly as I would have if I had heard and understood his question correctly.

7 The Narrow Mind Show #750 28:30

8 In this case, please disregard the theological incorrectness or incompleteness of this sentence (i.e. rejecting the gospel doesn’t send someone to hell, our sins do that).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Homosexuality and the Bible:
A Response to the Discussion

A few weeks ago there was a discussion on “The Narrow Mind” radio broadcast between Gene Cook Jr. (host and pastor of Covenant Baptist Church, San Diego CA) and Richard Brentlinger (author of “Gay Christian 101 - Spiritual Self-Defense For Gay Christians”) concerning whether or not homosexuality is a permissible according to the scriptures. I think that it is important to point out that by “permissible” I do not mean whether or not secular societies should allow men and women to engage on those activities freely, but I am referring to God’s Holy Word and what it has to say about such relationships. During the discussion, Rick affirmed that casual or non-committed sex between any persons is not permitted by Scripture, but he argues that committed same sex couples (who would marry each other if they could) are outside of that prohibition.

Gene Cook did a great job of walking through the various passages in the Bible, beginning with creation, showing God’s standard for sexual relationships. One of the initial objections to the ideas espoused by Mr. Brentlinger that was raised was the text from Leviticus 18.

21 'You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. 22 'You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.’ 23 'Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion (Leviticus 18:21-23)

Mr. Brentlinger argued that this passage (specifically referring to verse 22) is referring to the practice of worshiping pagan gods. He also makes the distinction, using Leviticus 18:1,3, that these commands are, “not for Bible believing Christians in the age of grace, this is addressed to the children of Israel who were about to enter the land of Canaan.”1 He then refers to both Molech and Ashtoreth (the fire and fertility gods of the Canaanites) and that worship to these gods was done in the form of sex, whether homosexual or heterosexual, and often using shrine prostitutes. And it was against these practices that the commands of Leviticus 18 were being addressed. He then argued that since the context of Leviticus 18 is dealing with pagan worship practices, then this passage says nothing about committed and loving relationships between two people of the same sex.

I thought that the response to this argument by Pastor Cook was outstanding because it both was a quick reaction to Mr. Brentlinger’s point as well as it basically destroyed any “contextual” basis that was used. Basically, Pastor Cook asked if it was acceptable to sacrifice children or to have sex with animals as long as it was not done as worship to a pagan deity. And when the response was that there was a difference and that Pastor Cook was using incorrect hermeneutics, Pastor Cook, after quoting Leviticus 18:21, 23, replied with, “Are you saying then that it is o.k. to sacrifice your children as long as it is not done in pagan worship?” Mr. Brentlinger replied with a quick, “No.” Pastor Cook then asks if bestiality (v. 23) is o.k. as long as it is not done in pagan worship. Mr. Brentlinger responds with another “No,” and then goes on to say that it is not correct to understand these two verses (v. 21 and 23) in this way. He said, basically, that these things are always wrong.
“I’m simply applying the same contextual argument to verse 21 and 23 that you are applying to the verse that is sandwiched between those two. And you’re saying that the context…is in the form of idol worship or pagan worship. I’m saying that if you’re going to interpret verse 22 that way, then you would also be forced to interpret verse 21 and 23 that way. Isn’t that a fair assumption?”2

Well, obviously he did not because this effectively destroys his whole contextual argument. Because if Brentlinger’s hermeneutic is applied consistently, then Leviticus 18 is only condemning these things when done to worship false gods, and only then if it is the nation of Israel that does it.

What actually went through my mind was a scene from “Liar Liar” where Jim Carrey is arguing a case in court. In this story, Carrey (Reede) is a scrupulous trial lawyer who lies in order to win. At one point in the movie, the opposing side is presenting some key evidence against his client. He attempts to intervene, but he is incapable of lying and the following interchange occurs:
Reede: “Your Honor, l object!”
Judge: “And why is that, Mr. Reede?”
Reede: “Because it's devastating to my case!”
Judge: “Overruled.“3

There were many other exchanges during the radio discussion, but it was pretty much the same story. For example, Mr. Brentlinger said that the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah was not just homosexual sex, but it was homosexual sex as an act of worship to a pagan god.

The more exciting part of this exchange for me came about when I was able to interact (after a fashion) with Mr. Brentlinger on another blog. During his comments, he made some pretty revealing statements about what lens he looks through when he interprets the Bible.

For example, Mr. Brentlinger wrote,
“The point Paul made in Romans 1:27, was aimed at prohibiting idolatry and shrine prostitution, (precisely the same rationale as Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13), but not a loving, committed, same sex relationship as we understand that today.”4

The phrase "as we understand it today" seems to be a dolled up way of saying that people in biblical times were dumb about this type of thing (sexual orientation), but now we're more intelligent.

It is impossible to "explain away" the overwhelmingly clear principle that sex is only acceptable in marriage, and that marriage is only between man and woman, not man and man or woman and woman. From creation to Sodom and Gomorrah to Christ’s teaching about marriage and divorce to the writings of the apostles, it is clear that God abhors homosexuality. The Bible is clear in it’s depiction that this is a perversion of what sex is and should be.

There is great hope for anyone who is homosexual, a liar, a thief, a drunk…anyone. The hope is in Christ, and once we are in Christ we are then in the company of people that Paul was thinking of when he wrote to the Corinthian church, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Its interesting that EJ brings I Cor 6:9 into the discussion. The Greek words at issue in I Cor 6:9 are malakoi and arsenokoites. John Wesley, 1703-1791, conservative founder of the Methodists, remarks on malakoi/effeminate in his notes on the Bible. “Nor the effeminate - who live in an easy, indolent way, taking no cross, enduring no hardship. But how is this? These good-natured, harmless people [effeminates]... John Wesley was not gay nor was he a gay apologist. He did not interpret malakoi to mean homosexual.

John Gill, 1697-1771, famous English Baptist pastor and expositor, in his Exposition of the Bible, understood malakoi to refer to those who commit the sin of Onan, Genesis 38:8-9, which in Gill’s day, signified masturbation, not homosexuality. "Nor effeminate “or "soft," or, as the Syriac renders it, "corrupters;" that is, of themselves, by voluntary pollution, such as are guilty of the sin of Onan, (Genesis 38:8,9).”

John Gill disagreed with every poster in this thread (except me) and with almost every modern preacher who uses I Corinthians 6:9 to preach against homosexuals. My point is that, for most of the last 2000 years, Christians of any denomination, did not understand I Cor 6:9 to be referring to homosexuality. That anti-gay 'spin' on the passage only became popular in the last 100 years.”5

Richard quoted Gill and Wesley in response to my earlier statement of hope, for all sinners that we can be freed from the sin that we’re in, citing them as saying that these passages are not referring to homosexuals. Now, while I haven’t yet done the word study on the two words brought up here, let me make one comment on how he is using John Gill and John Wesley (both of whom I respect, and I use Gill’s commentary regularly). I wonder if we could find any commentary these men affirm that the Bible condones and blesses (for lack of a better word) homosexual unions? I have never read anything from Wesley or Gill (not to mention Spurgeon, Edwards, Owen, Calvin, Luther, Augustine, or others) that even comes close to that kind of an affirmation. Without an affirmation that the act of homosexuality in “committed relationships” is approved of, discussions of the best understanding of a particular verse’s primary meaning is important and most edifying, but picking and choosing various sources to argue against the idea that any homosexual relationship is wrong while misrepresenting the same authors’ full view on homosexuality is dishonest and it doesn’t lend credit to the scholarship involved..

If Mr. Brentlinger is going to use men like the ones above to argue against an understanding of particular passage, I wonder if he also uses their understandings on the other passages dealing with homosexuality as well? I highly doubt it. Ultimately, tradition doesn’t form our theology, but it can help to guide it. But even as helpful, but fallible, guides, these men do not affirm any homosexual lifestyle.

Later in the conversation, Richard takes another shot at trying to water down the Biblical president of marriage by the following thoughts:
“I think it is always better to get married before beginning a sexual relationship.

I would point out however, that Judah had a brief sexual affair with his daughter in law Tamar, which produced twin boys, Pharez and Zarah.

Judah and Tamar were not married and there is no indication in the Bible that they ever got married.

Nevertheless, God saw fit to legitimate their relationship by placing their twin boys, Pharez and Zarah, in the genealogy of Christ, Genesis 38:11-26 and Matthew 1:3.”6

Aside from trying to figure out exactly what is meant by the phrase, “I think it is always better to get married before beginning a sexual relationship,” I would like to begin answering this attack by asking a question of my own. Does God legitimize the practice of incest (father with daughter)? Based on the above logic taken from Christ’s genealogy, He would. Ruth is also in the messianic line and she was a Moabitess. The Bible tells us that the Moabites were the descendents of Lot by the product of an incestual relationship between him and his daughters. So, based on the logic of Mr. Brentlinger, God must have “legitimized” the sexual relationship between Lot and his daughters by placing Ruth in the line of Christ.
“Jewish historians like Josephus and philosophers like Philo reinterpreted the Sodom story, in the first century, to make it a warning against pederasty, instead of a warning against inhospitality.

Jesus rejected the Jewish “reinterpretation” in Matthew 10:11-15 and Mark 6:11, when He pointed out that inhospitality was the sin of Sodom.”7

I have heard someone use Ezekiel 16:49 to say that the sin of Sodom was inhospitality. Based on the text in Ezekiel, it is proper to understand that inhospitality was a sin of Sodom, but it is a stretch beyond belief to say that it was the sin of Sodom. However using the Ezekiel passage in conjunction with Matthew 10 and Mark 6 to say that the sin of Sodom was inhospitality is just plain ridiculous.
14 "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.” (Matthew 10:14,15)

The key to understanding this passage and its main implications correctly is not to equate the way that the different towns treated the apostles with the treatment (inhospitality) of the angels or other travelers by Sodom and Gomorrah. If the towns did not receive the apostles, that was not the main issue. The main issue was the fact that by not receiving the apostles or the message that they were preaching, they were not receiving Christ.
"The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me." (Luke 10:16)

The clear implication from the Genesis text of Sodom and Gomorrah is that their sin (at least against the angels) was a widespread perversion including “both young and old, all the people from every quarter“ (Genesis 19:4) that was homosexual sex. There is no mention of pagan religious practices (temple prostitutes), just the deviant sexual behavior. Jude (v.7) agrees with the Old Testament and indicates the sexual perversion is the reason that these cities were treated in this fashion. They “indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” They are set up as an example for how much God detests this kind of sexual perverted practice.

Basically, to alter the message of Christ in Matthew 10 to mean that Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed because of their inhospitality is torturous to the Word of God. The point in that passage is that the judgment of those who reject the gospel and reject Christ will be worse than those hideous pagans who are judged for all of their wickedness but did not hear the gospel.
If we actually believed that logic is valid [if homosexual marriage is not in the Bible, then it’s not scriptural and we shouldn’t do it], we would immediately stop meeting in church buildings. No New Testament Christian congregation met in their own church building. They met in fields and homes.

No heterosexual couple in the Bible ever got married in a church building.

No heterosexual couple in the Bible was ever married by a denominationally affiliated pastor.

If your logic about gay marriage is valid, then it is unscriptural to meet in church buildings, get heterosexually married in church buildings and have denominationally affiliated pastors perform your wedding ceremony.

The general rule stating that if something is not in the Bible then Christians should reject it is true and I would hold to that principle, but it is not true in the lawnmower type way (i.e. destroying anything and everything in its path) that Mr. Brentlinger wants to apply it to make this point. The New Testament talks about Church activity, but it doesn’t refer to the type building that believers should congregate in. The structure of church leadership, not the structure of the building, and the qualifications of those leaders is described in the Bible (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). To make the claim that since the Bible doesn’t talk about the specific type of church building that we are to meet and that this is equivalent to the Bible being silent on same sex marriages is a mistake. If anyone can show me where the Bible describes and reaffirms the location and type of building that a body of New Testament believers should gather in, then we may have an issue equivalent to the homosexual marriage idea that Mr. Brentlinger was making.

The Bible doesn’t institute the marriage ceremony (i.e. what is said or where it is said or who officiates it) that men and women are to go through in order to get married, but it does institute who is to be married. And it is to this explicit teaching that we must hold fast. If sex is only okay inside of a marriage covenant relationship, then it also makes homosexual sex of any kind a sin, no matter how committed the two same sex parties are to each other.

1 Interview 2.19.07 19:45 into the discussion
2 Ibid. 23:20
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.

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