Joe Biden Is Right

Joe Biden is going to come out tomorrow against a universal basic income. He is right to do so. It should be one of the lessons we take from welfare reform back in the nineties. Just giving people money can cause them to lose their sense of self-worth. They lose initiative and their soul decays.

I think it is telling that in the perfect Garden of Eden, created by God himself, he commands Adam to work and creates Eve as a help mate to help him work.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15

Eden is a model for our perfect relationship with God. If we want to think about the new heavens and the new earth, we should look to Eden. And we see we have tasks. We have work. There is something soul dignifying about work. Work provides us a sense of self-worth. Work provides us a purpose. Work provides us a means to help ourselves and through our independency we are able then to feel a need to help others.

A universal income would take that all away for many. It would cause a loss of initiative for some. It would cause a loss of charity for others. It would cause a loss of purpose for most. It is a bad idea at an intrinsic, moral level.

There will always be those who cannot help themselves. But it would be a damnable thing for us to add to that list many who can, but who lose their way through dependence on a government program or a loss of self-worth by taking away direction and purpose.

Basic dignity should necessitate jobs, not handouts. Basic dignity requires allowing someone to build pride in their life and their accomplishments. Handouts take that away and cultural rot sets in. The opioid epidemic our nation is dealing with right now is nothing compared to what we would see when we hand out basic income and take away purpose and job.

Why Your Favorite Sin Is Not Suddenly Okay

The other day, a columnist in my local newspaper in Georgia raised a very common objection among those who treat Biblical inerrancy skeptically. He wrote that “taking the literalist path to studying the Bible can be a tough row to hoe.” I think he states a very common misunderstanding that speaks to the failure of the church to properly teach.

I believe the Bible is infallible and inerrant. That means where the Bible speaks with authority, the Bible is applicable and without error. Years ago, major Christian denominations came together and wrote what is called the Chicago Statement that more fully explains this. In short, parts of the Bible are apocalyptic, other parts are poetry, others are prophesy, and others are prose. One must know what one is dealing with in scripture to understand how to treat a particular book of the Bible. I take Jonah literally. I believe he was swallowed by a fish. I take Daniel’s apocalyptic visions as visions.

Credit to the columnist for raising Old Testament issues like a woman having to marry the man who rapes her. Usually, when skeptics use the Old Testament they go for eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabric, or stoning lying children to death. I call those “shibboleths of the damned” because most often the people who pull those out are either Christians of a shallow and wavering faith or not Christian at all. Those who use them show more about their ignorance of Christianity than anything else.

Christians accept the nearly 2000 year old doctrine of progressive revelation, or what may better be referred to as incremental revelation. In the Bible, the God who seems aloof and genocidal slowly reveals the nature of His relationship between Him and us and between each of us.

The God who demands Israel wipe out its enemies is the same God who commands us to turn the other cheek in the New Testament. He is the same God who commands we love one another and is the same God who died on the cross that we might live. He did not change. He just, over time, revealed more fully His expectations of us.

Christians started the abolition movement understanding this. Scripture does not champion slavery, contrary to some. Over the course of scripture, God made clear slaves are to be treated as brothers and family. He did not come to overthrow the worldly order. He came to impose a new order. So he did not himself abolish slavery, but set in motion a new order that would. With women, Paul posited the revolutionary idea that they were sons of God and of his inheritance. Women could not inherit in the Roman Empire. By proclaiming both men and women as sons and heirs, Paul was saying both stand equally before God on their own. As an aside, this is why gender neutral translations of the Bible fail to capture the impact of Paul’s statement. The New Testament also makes clear the Old Testament food laws, civil laws, ceremonial laws, etc. no longer applied. The moral laws stay. The ceremonial laws do not. The civil laws become a guide for a government, any of which is there because of God’s will.

The problem, though, for those who would now say God is okay with homosexuality is that the same progressive revelation doctrine applies there. And what one sees is that while the lot of women and slaves improves and we have a more complete understanding of our relationship with God and are called to love our neighbor, we are still called to hate sin. People quote “judge not lest ye be judged,” but they misunderstand the passage and completely ignore that it ends with “go and sin no more.” That is to be our message in the world.

While the New Testament ends the old food laws, etc. Jesus himself maintains the Levitical prohibitions on sexual immorality, to which homosexuality is connected, continue. The laws of sexual immorality are part of the moral law. The punishment at the hands of man does not continue, but the sin is still sin. The Apostolic writings double down on this. Adultery, murder, rape, lying, homosexuality, etc. are all still sins. We are now called to love the sinner, but we are not to embrace the sin. So while relations between men and women grow in the Bible, God’s relationship with us is more fully revealed, and the relationship between master and slave dramatically changes, at no point in the course of the progressive revelation of the Bible does God’s treatment of homosexuality change. We are not to kill the gay person. We are called to love them and to call on them to repent. We are called to be relational with them. But loving the sinner does not mean we can love the sin or should turn a blind eye to it.

More importantly, we do not get to keep adjusting scripture. The Old and New Testaments are God’s complete revelation to man. If we get to continue the progressive revelation, what we wind up doing is creating a god in our own image. The Jesus we should all struggle with becomes the Jesus who is totally cool with us as we are. There is no reason to repent because we decide our favorite sin is no longer sin.

It is not a tough row to hoe at all. The objections of Christian liberals and critics have long had easily understood answers. Unfortunately, some churches would prefer to ignore those answers. They want to drop a Christian sexual ethic in order to lure in more customers. In the process, they water down the faith and build a bunch of shallow Christians — the very kind of wheat planted among the rocks that Christ warns about. A Christian sexual ethic is not some ancillary bit of faith, but a Genesis 1 foundation of faith. In both marriage and sex, we experience the divine. Consequently, God regulates how we are to experience it and deviating from that we pervert it, debase it, undermine it, and make it ordinary.

But saying all this makes you unpopular with the world. The things of the world hate the things of God and hate the people of God. A church watering down the sexual ethic of the Bible to conform to the world is siding with the world against God. Many American Christians behave no differently from their secular neighbors. They want to be liked by the world and the love the world as is. They have no real sense of Christian purpose anymore and when confronted with a bit of Christian doctrine that might make life difficult for them, they throw it away. They have taken the worldly view of love and substituted it in place of God’s love. They think calling for repentance is judging, which it is not. They see people in loving relationships who are often kinder than the fellow on the pew behind them in church and think surely that person is okay with God, even if that person is not.

In the book of Jonah, remember, it was the pagans who were more godly than Jonah. The men on the boat and the people of Nineveh did what God wanted and Jonah was the hard headed, hard hearted one. But pagans they were still without a right relationship with God. You should be in prayer for your friends who do not recognize their sin is sin. You should not decide it is not sin just because of how awesome they are. Unfortunately, there are more and more pastors willing to help Christians conform to the world and bring the world’s culture into the church.

There are a lot of Christians who have become so disenchanted with the behavior of other Christians, they have decided the pagans are the better Christian and therefore the pagan, secular values of the world are more Christ like. And above all else, they really want to be liked by the world and be seen as kind in the world. They want weepy Jesus who cries without angry Jesus who throws out the money changers. And to the extent they want that, they view their fellow Christians as the pharisees and money changers and the money changers and worldly pharisees as the real good guys. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

What the Heck is Happening in America? Let Me Explain.

“The white supremacist defines us by color and the leftist defines us by sexual orientation and gender. Both write out original sin and find evil and sin elsewhere. All of this is to figure out who gets to be the Grand Sez Who in the absence of God.”

Social Justice Warriors drive out dissent at Google. Antifa attacks small businesses. White supremacists run over and kill in Charlottesville. Black Lives Matter activists shut down intersections. Gay rights activists shut down florists and bakers. The Resistance marches. All of these things are happening for the same reason. The left and right in protest and fight are just two heads of a common coin.

They are doing these things because they are trying to build moral responses to the uncertainty of Western civilizational truths becoming uncertain. As the West leaves God behind, with His absence is a vacuum into which competing parties try to become, in Arthur Leff’s terminology, the new Grand Sez Who. In the absence of God, only the mob sez who. Government itself in the West is arranged under the rubric of a divine Creator allowing the people to form governments premised on ensuring and protecting divinely given rights. Without a Creator, we create our own worlds positing ourselves and those who agree with us as the just and the other as evil.

With the collapse of shared Christian values in the West, the world is descending into natural law where survival of the fittest reigns supreme. But survival of the fittest is incompatible with people because, though we may not believe it, we are actually created in the image of God. We have dwelling within us the spark of the divine that provides a universal morality. We may do our best to repress it, but in that repression it channels itself in different ways.

With the left, repressing God leads head long into a collision with natural selection. To rationalize the balance of universal morality and natural law, the left then posits that the white male is the fittest and everyone else must be protected from him. The white male then becomes evil and the further from being a white male one is, the more divine that person is. So a hermaphroditic Hispanic one armed lesbian who used to be a man of African descent is as close to the divine as is possible in the world. It’s views must trump all others, especially the white male. The white male must also repent and acknowledge his privilege while embracing silence in order to be a part of society. His original sin is his skin color and sex. Without acknowledging his position of privilege and following the orders and whims of those who are not white men, he cannot truly be repentant and therefore cannot purge himself of evil.

On the other side, white supremacists see white men as the highest and best and believe in trickle down benefits to everyone else. What is best for the white man will ultimately benefit the others. And the others are inferior and will always be inferior. In some ways, the white supremacist is further removed from God than the left because the left seeks to grapple with moral certainties while the white supremacist seeks to abandon them altogether in favor of dominance of one race over all others.

Both also share another trait and it is premised in the pelagian heresy that rejects original sin. With the the white supremacists, people are born into skin color and are defined by their race. Whiteness is who one is and not just how one came into the world — the product of two people of the same race creating a child. With the left, people are born into sexual orientation. One is either gay or straight and because God made them that way there is no way it can be sinful. Who one is, is gay or straight. It is not how one is attracted to others that matter. Both sides define people in some way other than as made in the image of God, but also sinners by virtue of man’s fall.

The white supremacist defines us by color and the leftist defines us by sexual orientation and gender. Both write out original sin and find evil and sin elsewhere. All of this is to figure out who gets to be the Grand Sez Who in the absence of God. Politics, which had become a process by which we govern ourselves, becomes power. Who ever controls government gets to impose their morality. Government then becomes religion for both sides. In the absence of God there is only government and it is through government action that God moves. Opponents then are obstructing the god’s will and definitionally then are evil. It only then takes one small step for both sides to conclude elimination of the other is acceptable because that other is evil.

We have seen this first and foremost on the left. But there are more and more strains on the right adhering to this. Instead of embracing a divine Savior to save humanity, some of the right who purport to be Christians have embraced a strong man in Washington. Using religious rhetoric these people have traded a man who died on a cross for one who chokes on his foot. And they give him a pass at everything because they are convinced he will save them. They attack any who might be on their side ideologically if such a person calls out the President because doing so is only emboldening the other side and, therefore, emboldening evil.

Neither side will replace God and both will eventually be supplanted by other things. Eventually, Western civilization will come full circle and back to real truth. Until that time we will be in an ever growing period of chaos as both the social justice warriors and white supremacists seek to supplant God and claim themselves as the Grand Sez Who. They feed on the moral uncertainty left in the wake of the West abandoning its foundational values.

The only stable element will be the Christian church and the only stable elements within the Christian church will be those who embrace a consistent orthodoxy, which must include a consistent sexual ethic and a consistent ethic of grace coupled with authentic calls for repentance. A West without God will not long stand and the church will be the last refuge within.

If You are in the PCA or RUF, You Need to Watch This

Rosaria Butterfield, from a speech in December of 2016, has some hard words for the Presbyterian Church in America and Reformed University Fellowship. She is also absolutely right. The forces of “I want to be liked” have invaded both institutions and are trying to twist Biblical theology to be more popular and less confrontational.

From my vantage point, knowing people who have bought into what Mrs. Butterfield is talking about, these guys want to be liked. They view themselves as good guys drawing people to the gospel and have decided they and the gospel must adapt ever so slightly to attract millennials. Yes, many of them themselves are millennials.

But in making their change, they’ve altered the gospel and now have invented a class of sin that God would find he can overlook without Christ on the cross.

Hat tip to Jim Curtis.

Have You Prayed for President Trump?

When Barack Obama was President, I often reminded my conservative friends, readers, and listeners that scripture commands we pray for our leaders. Many of them would reply that they had prayed Obama resign, die, lose re-election, not cause lasting harm, or otherwise prayed every which way they could pray about him without actually praying for him.

Having mentioned on social media last week that people complaining about President Trump should pray for him, some demanded to know if I had ever done the same for Barack Obama. Yes and repeatedly over the course of eight years. Others, however, did exactly as some had dome to Barack Obama. They prayed all sorts of things about the President, but did not pray for the President.

If you are a Christian, scripture commands you to pray for the President. You should pray for his protection, his well being, that God grants him wisdom, that he is a faithful instrument of God’s will, that he glorifies God in all he does, etc. You are to pray God’s blessings on the President and ask God to be with the President. Yes, you can pray that God turn the President’s heart, but pray for him too. Scripture commands it.

Put bluntly, if you cannot bring yourself to pray positively for the President, you are no better than your view of the President. Pray for his safety, his leadership, his wisdom, his family, and that he is surrounded with capable people. Again, this is what scripture says to do. There is no reason to obfuscate it or try to weasel your way out of it.

Pray for the President and pray sincerely.

David Gushee Has Not Left Evangelicalism. He Has Left Christianity Itself.

David Gushee is a liberal Baptist theologian connected to my alma mater. At one time, Gushee wrote scholarly pieces that noted homosexuality is a sin. But over time, Gushee moved left and he “evolved” in that position. He has now written an honest and commendable piece in which he speaks an honest and indisputable truth. He says there is no common ground between those who believe homosexuality is a sin and those who do not.

I now believe that incommensurable differences in understanding the very meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the interpretation of the Bible, and the sources and methods of moral discernment, separate many of us from our former brethren — and that it is best to name these differences clearly and without acrimony, on the way out the door.

I also believe that attempting to keep the dialogue going is mainly fruitless. The differences are unbridgeable. They are articulated daily in endless social media loops.

He is right. That does not mean we should hate each other, fight a bloody war, etc. We should be respectful and loving of one another, even in this disagreement. My friend Andrew Walker has a real must read on Gushee’s position.

Gushee is gambling with high stakes; unreasonably high stakes in my opinion. He’s asking the church — and by extension, the global church — to repent of two thousand years of biblical teaching. He’s asking us to journey with him accepting that the church’s entire witness, including the words of Jesus himself, have been misunderstood or wrong for the entirety of church history. He’s asking us to trust him on his journey and those like him — highly educated and predominantly Western social progressives — to speak univocally for the entire church.

(See also Rod Dreher).

I have to take issue with one thing Gushee writes. He claims he is leaving evangelicalism.

I must disagree.

Gushee is actually leaving Christianity itself, despite trying to claim otherwise with a book titled Still Christian. In fact, I think Gushee will eventually be as honest about leaving the faith as he is about leaving evangelicalism. First, he accepted that homosexuality was a sin. Then he evolved on that position and tried to find common ground. Now he has decided there is no common ground and he is no longer an evangelical. The next step will be to formally acknowledge he is not a Christian. It may take time, but I have no doubt it will happen.

The reason it will happen is because to accept marriage is between more than one man and one woman and to embrace homosexuality, is to reject the teachings of Jesus himself and of his apostles. Gushee and those who hold his position are on the opposite side of 2000 years of Christendom. At some point I strongly believe they will give up the farce and decide instead of trying to convince people that 2000 years of orthodoxy is wrong and their novel interpretations of scripture are right, they’ll just declare themselves Episcopalian and call it a day.

After all, though Gushee is leaving evangelicalism, he is also leaving Anglicanism, Catholicism, Orthdoxy, and every other branch of Christianity. The few churches still claiming to be Christian while embracing homosexuality are all dying out. More than one study has concluded the last Episcopalian has already been born. Gushee’s breed of self-proclaimed Christian is becoming an endangered species headed toward extinction all while claiming to be at one with the zeitgeist.

Over time, Jesus will become a moral teacher, not God. He’ll eventually be a morality tale and not real. Biblical teachings will move from inerrancy to helpful guidelines to ancient wisdoms worth considering.

While one can claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore we cannot judge them, there are plenty of people who claim to be Christian and reject the trinity. Rejection of the trinity is rejection of Christianity itself. Likewise, some people claim to be Christian and reject the idea of a physical resurrection of Jesus. These people are no more Christian than a muslim is a Christian.

The question is not whether one believes in Jesus or not, but in which Jesus does one believe. There is the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of those who find passages of the Bible inconvenient. The former can throw a punch and the latter is a weepy sissy Jesus who loves everyone and tolerates everyone except those who cling to Biblical orthodoxy and who reads Fifty Shades of Rachel Held Evans, a novella more insufferable than its namesake.

Anyone can believe in Jesus. Even Muslims believe in Jesus. It’s just not everyone believes in the real Jesus.

The real Jesus is the Logos who spoke creation into existence. He is the second part of the Godhead who divinely created the world. The Hebrew Bible uses the verb “bara,” which only applies to God himself. When men create, they do not bara. Only God does. And God divinely created humanity as male and female. That means we cannot create other than male and female and it means we cannot swap between the two. A belief in the biblical Jesus necessitates a rejection of transgenderism.

Likewise, God created marriage and made it between men and women. We do not get to change that. A belief in the biblical Jesus necessitates a rejection of gay marriage.

To believe otherwise requires traveling down rabbit holes, twisting words, and conjuring whole new meanings for words and phrases interpreted consistently over 2000 years. “Because I want it to be this way” does not make it your way and no one has yet made a convincing case that 2000 years of orthodox Biblical interpretation is wrong. They just want it to be so.

So let’s stop pretending that when one rejects the Biblical world view on sexual sin that one is just rejecting evangelicalism. No, the truth is that person is rejecting Christendom itself.

It does not make the person a worse sinner than you or me. They too are created in the image of God. We should be in prayer for them, be willing to have civic community with them, and even be willing to sit at the dinner table with them. But that does not mean we should surrender honesty for pleasantry or sit at a communion table with them. David Gushee is not leaving evangelicalism. He has left Christianity behind for a god of his own creation.

Happy Easter

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12 (ESV)

Happy Easter to each and every one of you.

The Annual Good Friday Show

I am blessed to work for a radio company that allows me to spend Good Friday talking about Jesus instead of politics and the news of the day. I’m pleased to present to you this year’s Good Friday Show from WSB Radio in Atlanta.