Sin, the Church, & the Nation

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The New Mexico Supreme Court rules that a Christian photographer who didn’t want to photograph a homosexual wedding has to do so. Her faith was not as important as the right of the couple to force her to be their photographer. Her faith has to accommodate to their wishes because anti-discrimination is more essential than religious liberty.

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A bakery in Oregon refuses to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding. The business now faces an anti-discrimination lawsuit.

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Officials in Pennsylvania and New Mexico defy the laws of their states by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Pennsylvania’s attorney general states she will defy the same-sex marriage ban. The attorney general is supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer in the state.

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A lesbian training squadron commander in the Air Force punishes a sergeant who believes homosexuality is a sin. This occurred after he defended another sergeant who had shared his religious views on homosexuality in a classroom setting.

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On a day in which Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is memorialized, President Obama includes in his remarks comments about how gays are experiencing the same discrimination blacks have historically experienced, thereby equating the two.

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The lead singer for the popular Christian band Building 429 says that he doesn’t like to throw stones, that homosexuals are in a human rights fight, and that they should have the same rights as a traditional married couple. Although he says he believes homosexuality is a sin, it’s not all that big a deal because he sins “1000 times a day.” He’s not comfortable chastising people and telling them they may go to hell.

This is America, year 2013. We are a nation on the edge of moral ruin. The rule of law is breaking down. Even many who call themselves Christians can’t bring themselves to stand for Biblical truth. One of the biggest problems, in my view, is that our theology is off-base. If you sin a thousand times a day, are you really a Christian?

Hebrews HolinessWe are hesitant to judge. We don’t want to be seen as holier-than-thou. We want people to love us. Yet we are told in Scripture to speak the truth in love. Yes, we reach out to people, even to those caught in the ugliest of sinful bondage, but that outreach must begin with the truth: you can only be set free by repenting of the sin and receiving God’s forgiveness. Another part of the truth is that God now expects you to live a life free from sin. Holiness is a requirement; you no longer sin a thousand times a day.

So while I’m disturbed by the drift in this nation, I’m more disturbed by the drift in what is ostensibly the Body of Christ. And the connection between the two is evident. As the church goes, so goes the nation. If we want the nation to change, we must begin with ourselves. God will definitely hold us accountable.

Christian Higher Education at a Crossroads

Christian EducationThe last couple days I’ve extolled Christian higher education. I believe in it with a whole heart. Yet that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. In fact, a battle royal is currently waging for the soul of the Christian college and university. Let me comment on that today.

Where does one receive a doctoral degree? Overwhelmingly, if you attain a doctorate, you’ve gotten it from a non-Christian university. Relatively few doctoral programs exist within evangelical Christian universities. I, for instance, have my doctorate from American University in Washington, DC. There was nothing very Christian about the program. I had to examine what I was being taught and filter it all through Biblical principles. Consequently, most professors teaching in evangelical higher education have a thoroughly secular education at the doctoral level. How many have gone to the effort to rethink the premises or assumptions behind the knowledge they imbibed? Have they come to a Biblical understanding of that basic information?

Doubt-FaithAll too often, that rethinking has been abortive. I’m afraid many teach primarily what they have been taught, sprinkling a prayer or a short devotional on top of it. That leads to a confused, inconsistent worldview being passed on to their students. Back in the 1980s, I remember reading about one study that concluded that a higher percentage of churched young people lose their faith in Christian colleges than in the worldly ones. Why? They were dismayed by the false advertising; they were told they would receive an education based on Biblical principles, but, in fact, they weren’t getting anything all that different from what a state university would have given them. Disillusioned, they abandoned the faith.

 Here’s what’s transpiring in most of the Christian colleges with which I’m familiar:

  • A significant minority—and in some cases a majority—of the professors have jumped on the bandwagon of social justice teaching. Social justice, simply as a term, is not pernicious. Surely Christians want to see justice in society, at all levels. The problem is the definition making the rounds today: it always equates with the liberal/progressive worldview that sees government programs as the solution to poverty and all other social ills. All too often, it exonerates the crimes of communism/Marxism/socialism and tries to convince students these are movements based on Biblical teaching.
  • This quest for social justice manifests itself through nearly all the disciplines. Sociology and social work professors, sincerely concerned for those living in terrible circumstances, believe that Christian compassion demands more government help, making almost no distinction between legitimate Biblical compassion and government programs. They are not the same.
  • English departments will concentrate on “cutting edge” literature espousing radical ideology at the expense of classics that have stood the test of time and that teach some valuable spiritual and moral precepts.
  • History and political science professors will make heroes of some of the worst dregs of humanity: Lenin, Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara, to name just a few. Liberal political ideology is promoted as the natural outgrowth of Christianity. I recall one history professor’s door at a well-known and respected evangelical university littered with peace signs and all other standard liberal propaganda. And if you see a Christian professor walking around campus with a Che shirt, you shouldn’t be surprised.
  • This battle even invades the religion and theology departments. Sometimes, those professors can be the greatest promoters of the progressive, semi-Marxist philosophy. Again, this will be done in the name of Christian compassion for the poor and downtrodden. Yet I’ve also noticed that, among such professors, concern about abortion is minimal. Somehow, the most innocent of all, who are losing their lives in the most awful holocaust in history, are marginalized; they take a back seat to those who supposedly need a higher minimum wage or some other liberal nostrum.
  • I’ve also perceived that Christian professors of this stripe aren’t all that concerned about homosexuality. They seem to have bought into the trendy idea of diversity, believing that since God loves sinners, He will probably accept their sexual orientation. Even using the language of “sexual orientation” is to dismiss the Biblical truth of personal responsibility for one’s actions, otherwise known as “sin.”

Many of these professors who espouse liberal views are sincere Christians in their personal lives. I won’t say that of all of them; God is the ultimate judge. However, for those who know they’ve been rescued from their own sinfulness, the problem lies with their grasp of how Biblical principles are to be applied to society. Bottom line: they have little understanding of the Bible’s teaching on government in general, and on civil government in particular; they have spotty comprehension of economics based on Biblical principles; and they are quite muddled in their definitions of compassion and social justice.

The very soul of the Christian college and university is on the line. Christian higher education may be at a crucial crossroads. Will we reaffirm basic Biblical teachings or allow ourselves to drift into modern thought tinged with a vague type of Christian compassion? The stakes are high. The next generation of Christian leaders is at risk.

The Supreme Court vs. God’s Court

BuildingAll day Tuesday, I was seeing tweets via my Twitter account that expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would uphold the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] because it wouldn’t want to repeat the mistake of Roe v. Wade. I was not nearly as optimistic. Technically, the optimists were correct; the Court stopped short of declaring that same-sex marriage should be legal throughout the nation. But the effect of its decision in Windsor—and its punt on the Prop 8 case—is not much different. Homosexual activists clearly saw the decisions as a win for their unholy goals.

There are a couple of layers here to analyze. Legally, the decision was narrow in one sense; it didn’t strike down DOMA altogether. While the Court ruled that these fictional same-sex marriages qualified the couples for federal benefits in the same way as real marriages, it left untouched, at least nominally, the part of the bill that protects states who have defined marriage as between a man and a woman from recognizing same-sex marriages that have occurred in another state. However, that protection is now paper-thin. By giving same-sex mock marriages the same status as genuine marriages, the push will now be on to overturn the rest of the law. After all, on what grounds can a state now deny these fake marriages if the federal government has sanctioned them? At least, that will be the argument.

An equally disturbing feature of the DOMA decision was enunciated by Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent, which was strong indeed. He objected to the majority’s decision on a couple of fronts. One was the “tone” of the majority and the aspersions it cast on the motives of those who support traditional marriage. A second concern, intertwined with the first, was the high-handedness of the Court in saying it is the ultimate authority on these issues. Both assertions bothered Scalia and led him to write the following:

Antonin ScaliaWe have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. . . . The court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.

But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been
unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race. . . .

It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will “confine” the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.

A deeper and more basic concern is one that the political world doesn’t want to touch: the rebellion against God and His law that has led us to this point. Few in politics ever come out and clearly state that homosexual behavior is sinful [to use such a word would be to tie oneself to an outmoded way of thinking] and destructive of society. Few will take the chance of being branded as bigoted and hateful for holding such a view. Well, I’m one of the few who will say it: homosexuality is a sin; it is an abomination before God [as is all sin]; it is leading this nation into a spiritual and moral black hole; we ultimately will be judged for following this path.

If anyone thinks yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions will bring us peace, think again. Now that the highest court in the land has given approval to this behavior, the proponents will stop at nothing to overturn all morality based on Biblical teachings. Further, there will be an ever-increasing crusade to marginalize those who continue to hold to Biblical morality. They won’t be satisfied until all who believe as I do are ostracized from “respectable” society.

Christians need to respond appropriately. First, no matter how we may feel about what is transpiring, we must keep holding out God’s message of salvation to those who have trapped themselves in the chains of sin. That message must begin with a clear statement of what sin is, the necessity of repentance—turning away from rebellion against God and His loving laws—and the offer of forgiveness and sanctification through the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Even as we spread the Good News that people can be free from sin and living for God, we must redouble our efforts on the political front to reverse what has occurred. It can be done. Even now, there is a movement away from the abortion-on-demand mentality that has infected our society for too long. We have been making the case for life, and we are seeing victories, both in court and in public opinion. The same can happen with respect to marriage.

PersecutionBut what if, despite all our efforts, the society continues to plunge headlong into the abyss? What if we are persecuted for our beliefs? The message remains the same: be faithful. Besides, being persecuted merely connects us with those who have suffered for the faith throughout history. We should be glad to share the fate of those who have gone before us. Our reward awaits us once we leave what many have called “this vale of tears.”

Reading in the book of John yesterday, I was reminded of these words of Jesus:

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. . . . If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

We’re not in a popularity contest. We’re called to be disciples of the One who is above all human courts. Let’s be faithful to that calling.

Protecting Life & Religious Liberty

Let’s set aside “official” scandals today and concentrate on how Republicans are attempting to safeguard life and religious liberty. Of course, the taking of innocent life via abortion and the persecution of those who hold to a Biblical worldview are just as scandalous, but the media would never use the word to describe what’s happening on those fronts.

After the revealed horror of abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s practices, there’s an opening to push for more restrictions on abortion. Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee last week successfully advanced a bill to the whole House that would outlaw nearly all abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy. This is designed to terminate the actions of those who terminate life in a late-term abortion. The full name of the bill is the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. One of the goals is to show that these children in the womb actually experience pain during the abortion. These representatives are trying to awaken the general public to the humanness of each unborn child.

Awakening the general public is not as difficult as sparking interest in Democrat lawmakers, though. The bill passed on a purely party-line vote—not even one Democrat on the committee supported sending the proposed law to the full House. Prediction: it will pass the House since Republicans are in the majority; it will then die in the Democrat-controlled Senate. If, by some minor miracle, the Senate should pass it, President Obama is on record saying he will veto it. No surprise there. This is the president who spoke to Planned Parenthood and asked God’s blessing on their activities, which include more than 330,000 abortions each year. Neither Planned Parenthood nor President Obama care one bit for the lives of the unborn. Instead, they concentrate their efforts on making sure that any young girl, with no age restrictions, can get a morning-after pill.

Plan B

As for the issue of religious liberty, Republicans in both the House and Senate have put forward amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would protect the rights of conscience for members of the military, allowing them to express their religious faith without discrimination or retaliation. The amendments also call for investigation of reports of religious discrimination and the influence of outside groups in creating Pentagon policy. This is in response to the earlier repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the now total acceptance of homosexuality in the military. Ever since the repeal, Christians in the armed forces have been pressured to be silent or even promote homosexuality, although they believe it to be immoral behavior.

None of this should be necessary; we have something called the First Amendment. It should be a given that soldiers don’t lay aside their Christian faith upon entering the military. But here’s another non-surprise. Once again, as with the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, President Obama has vowed to veto any bill with this amendment, thereby showing he has no genuine regard for religious liberty. It also reveals his basic anti-Christian worldview. He and his party are devoted to promoting immorality, although selectively applied:

Progressive Logic

Our president seeks to impose his worldview on the nation. When he said he wanted to transform America, he meant it. I’ve often commented on the palpable arrogance of President Obama. You can see it in his poses, his facial expressions, and his actions. One gets the impression he considers himself somehow above mere mortals:

Mortals Don't Understand

Although the Republicans’ attempts to protect unborn children and ensure liberty of conscience will not succeed with this man in the White House, it’s important to continue to make the attempts. Each time, it’s an opportunity to bring understanding to the public. With enough understanding, perhaps we can avoid in 2016 the mistakes we made in 2008 and 2012.

 

Our Departure from the Laws of God

Four people died in the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt. Four people died in the Benghazi terrorist attack. We had wall-to-wall coverage of the first, virtually nothing on the second, although that may be changing. Hearings this week will highlight whistleblowers who have tales to tell about this administration’s attempt to cover up its incompetence and failure to act. That failure seems to be the result of lack of desire to call out Islamic terrorism for what it is and to ensure reelection by shoving the event under the rug. As the pressure mounts for the truth to be known, how does our president spend his time? What does he consider worthy of attention?

The NBA player is being hailed as a “hero” for coming forward with a declaration of his homosexuality. It’s kind of an upside-down world when that is celebrated and a solid Christian faith is not:

Here’s another example of how backward we have become morally:

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on Kermit Gosnell. One has to wonder if justice will be served there, given the moral state of the country. Who are the jurors? Will they realize the immensity of the depravity on display? Four died in Boston. Four died in Benghazi. Thousands died at the hands of Gosnell. He is the face of the entire abortion industry, which has rightly been termed the New Holocaust. As with Auschwitz, perhaps we should make Gosnell’s facility into a somber reminder of our departure from the laws of God:

Wood, Hay, & Straw

Jim Wallis, one of the leaders of what might be termed the Christian Left, has now come out in favor of same-sex marriage. Ever since his days as a member of the 1960s radical group Students for a Democratic Society, which was grounded in socialist/communist philosophy, Wallis has tried to walk a fine line in an attempt to marry [pun intended] Biblical principles with a humanistic, atheistic worldview. It has been as spectacularly unsuccessful as the same-sex unions he now supports.

Wallis is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. He’s only the most obvious spokesperson for a phenomenon that threatens to split evangelicalism while it simultaneously destroys our Biblical basis for morality, law, and government. Can such views really coexist with what C. S. Lewis has called “mere Christianity”?

Genuine Christians can disagree on doctrine. They can disagree on how the Christian faith is demonstrated in society. There certainly is room for liberty of conscience. Yet when does liberty become licentiousness?

I disagree with Christians who espouse pacifism, but I don’t count them out of the kingdom; I merely consider them incorrect in their understanding of Scripture. I profoundly dissent from those who believe the government should follow policies of redistribution of wealth to achieve “fairness.” Many who promote this do so out of concern for the poor, yet they don’t realize how this vision of “helping” violates a number of Biblical principles and ultimately fails in its goal. They haven’t learned the lessons of history. Their hearts may be right in their desire to help, but all they accomplish is to spread the misery around.

It gets dicier when those who claim the name of Christ begin to advocate for positions that are directly contradictory to basic Biblical morality. Can someone really be a genuine Christian and promote abortion, or at least not be concerned about it? Is it simply a mistake when a professed Christian finds reasons to excuse homosexual behavior or is it rather a manifestation of a deeper rebellion against God’s call for holiness? I have my opinions on that, but, thankfully, God will be the final judge.

Thinking about this led me to a particular passage of Scripture, found in 1 Corinthians 3: 11-15. Here the apostle Paul speaks of how the Lord will judge the actions of His disciples:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

The clear teaching is that in order to be a Christian, our foundation must be nothing else than absolute faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. As long as we have repented of sin, received His forgiveness, and are now motivated by His love, we are part of His kingdom. However, not all our works for Him have the same value. Some are described as especially fruitful—gold, silver, precious stones—while others are virtually useless for building the kingdom—wood, hay, and straw.

I submit that when those who seek to build God’s kingdom with ideas that undermine the very kingdom they seek to build, their works will be shown to have been nothing more than wood, hay, and straw. They will have done more damage than good. We should all examine our motives and our actions continually. I know I don’t want to feel shame when that “day” comes.

Salt, Light, & Truth

I’ve spent the past two days writing about the drift of our culture into acceptance of a type of sex God forbade. For many people, this whole issue is simply a matter of “democracy”—let the people decide what they want. When you introduce the moral element, they tell you that’s irrelevant. All that matters is that we are devoted to popular sovereignty. As a historian, I know that term well. The last time it was front and center in the political debate was prior to the Civil War. Popular sovereignty was supposed to solve the quandary of slavery. Let the people of the new territories decide for themselves if they want slavery or not. Stephen Douglas, the Illinois senator who championed this approach, infamously said slavery was not a moral issue.

Well, I can’t help but frame it morally. At its foundation, the push for same-sex marriage is a clear indication of our rebellion against the righteousness of God and His law. It is a perversion—and I use that word advisedly and with forethought—of the gift of sex. Only a people firmly rooted in Biblical truth can prevail against this headwind. Are we no longer that people?

Liberals/progressives, whose outlook is primarily secular, think opposition to homosexuality is foolish. Unfortunately, they are joined in this view by a growing number of those who continue to call themselves Christians. They adopt most of the progressive political agenda and attempt to stamp it with God’s favor. They are doing a disservice to the gospel, and the God, they claim to represent.

Then there are some conservatives who are abandoning the field of battle. Most often, that’s because they are little different than their erstwhile foes at the other end of the political spectrum. How can that be? They are basically secular also; their conservatism is not based on solid Biblical principles. So when the culture shifts, they have no anchor to hold them to their position. They attempt to mix political conservatism with moral relativism. It’s not a good mixture.

One particular strand in the conservative movement is more libertarian than conservative. That group has never been wedded to Biblical morality anyway. They don’t want the government telling anyone what to do in the moral realm. Many of them support the mislabeled pro-choice position on abortion and have no problem at all with homosexuality. Their presence in the conservative coalition waters down its moral foundations.

The only saving grace in modern American conservatism, and in our politics in general, is the part of our populace that brings its Christianity to bear on our culture and government. They are the ones Jesus was referring to when He said,

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Salt preserves; light shows the way. Those in the church who have succumbed to the spirit of the age are the tasteless salt; they are no good for anything in this struggle. The responsibility therefore falls on those who still understand that truth is truth in all ages, and that it never changes. We need to preserve whatever remains of goodness in this land, and we need to be the ones who shine a light on the right path to take. Are we up to the challenge?