Archive for category Bible

Reflections on Independence Day, Obergefell v. Hodges, and the State of Our Union

To say it’s been an historic couple of weeks is an understatement. One week and one day ago, our Supreme Court decided, unequivocally, our Constitution grants same-sex couples seeking to marry that right. I use the term “our” deliberately because, whether you agree with the decision of our Court or not, it is nonetheless our Court rendering our collective decision.

This is not to say that we, individually, should agree with our Court’s decision. I assume from the nature and title of this blog it is obvious that, if I were a Justice on our Court, I would have been in the minority. The arguments on all sides are apparent and readily available to anyone interested, so I won’t rehash any of those here. Nor will I let this become a lament on the state of our Union on this celebration of our independence.

Instead, I appeal to everyone to reflect on what has transpired and what it means for our country.

After President Obama’s inauguration, I wrote:

Whether you are black, white; Republican, Democrat; conservative, liberal; or whatever… today is a day we can all be proud of.

The inauguration of our first African-American President is historic. It is on par with the Civil War, the Great Depression, and landing on the moon as far as I am concerned…

I think there’s truth to the notion that “Washington changes people, people don’t change Washington.” But, the inauguration of Barack Obama as President certainly changes America…

This sentiment is equally appropriate after the Obergefell decision. From one day to the next, our country was transformed. Not through war, nor violence, nor coup, nor other illegitimate means, but through the channels of our government.

To my fellow Christians who disagree with our Court’s decision, I simply say first, this happened on our watch. If our Court’s decision offends your religious sensibilities, why did you let it happen? And by “you,” I mean “we.” The decision was our Court’s, made up of appointees, not politicians, but, make no mistake, the decision was a political decision. And it should hardly come as a surprise. It’s been visible on the horizon for years. Our system is political after all, and a united voice and voting block could have easily prevented it. So, collectively, we must stand up and accept our share of the responsibility.

I’m afraid we, my Christian brethren, exist in a perpetual state of religious naivete. There is a tidal wave of un-Biblical thought and ideology flooding our nation, and we continue to simply exist in our own homes, churches, and communities insulated from the big, scary world, and we do little more than complain about what happens around us.

Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That does not suggest a passive church being overrun by the enemy. To the contrary, he is describing a vibrant, active church for whom victory is guaranteed. In order to obtain victory, however, we do need to first get in the game.

Second, we are woefully unequipped for the battleground on which we have chosen to fight. Our weapons are spiritual, not legal nor political. I say this, of course, as a lawyer. Our first mission should be changing hearts, not laws. If we can succeed on this front, the legal and political battles become irrelevant. We are like a military stretched thin, battling on many fronts. On this point, scripture is abundantly clear, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Our enemy is not any community of people, not gay, not Muslim, not black or white, not atheist, not anyone. Our enemy is spiritual. Fortunately, for this battle our singular weapon is more than sufficient. Our training in spiritual warfare may be lacking, but our weapon is not. The spiritual war, not the political one, is the one where victory is imperative.

Third, despite what I have just written, our Court’s decision doesn’t have to be final. Our Court decided our Constitution, as currently constructed, affords same-sex couples the right to marry. However, this can be changed by simple Constitutional amendment. It is easier said than done, but, if we collectively have the intestinal fortitude to amend our Constitution, it can be accomplished. If not, we should stop complaining and move on.

To everyone who agrees with our Court’s decision, I do not expect nor intend to change minds. I am not nearly so presumptuous. I would offer, first, disagreement with our Court’s decision does not necessarily equal bigotry, hatred, closed-mindedness, or any other such descriptor. It could, but it doesn’t have to. There are countless issues whereupon reasonable people can disagree. This is one. To suggest otherwise hints of all the adjectives above.

For millennia, the definition of “marriage” was a union between man and woman. Even now, the Black’s Law Dictionary definition of “marriage” is:

Marriage, as distinguished from the agreement to marry and from the act of becoming married, Is the civil status of one man and one woman united in law for life, for the discharge to each other and the community of the duties legally incumbent on those whose association is founded on the distinction of sex.

Most dictionaries define “marriage” likewise. Admittedly, Webster’s has amended the definition to include same-sex marriage, but that definition is presently in the minority. So let’s at least be honest about what we, as a nation, are doing: we are redefining “marriage.” It’s not the discovery of some heretofore existent right that has been suppressed. It is the absolute creation of something altogether new.

To be sure, this is not without precedent in our legal system, but let’s not pretend this is the righting of some long-standing wrong. By definition, marriage has always been exclusively the union of men and women. By law, going forward, this is no longer the case.

Second, and I don’t mean to point out the obvious, but no one is, or, prior to eight days ago, was prohibited from marrying. There were prohibitions against marriage to certain persons, numbers of persons, etc., but that type of regulation is nothing new. Therefore, the notion that anyone was denied the right to marry is simply not true. The ability to marry whomever one chose was not guaranteed, but no one was deprived of the right to marry. The “right” to marry someone of the same sex did not exist a week and a day ago. Now, by judicial fiat, it does.

Third, though the issue was decided in favor of same-sex marriage, there are legitimate legal arguments to the contrary; and, but for the judgment of any one of five Justices, the decision would have turned…and still been correct. It is a quirk of our legal system where the majority of nine is right, until it isn’t the majority. Fundamental, Constitutional “rights” are given, taken, and/or whittled away with surprising regularity. In addition to the Fourteenth Amendment right newly minted, those guaranteed by the Second and Fourth Amendments come immediately to mind, but there are numerous others. Therefore, the issue is far from settled. Now, our nation’s legal system will learn to operate with this change in the law and sort out the many questions that remain.

Finally, to anyone on the fence (and judging by my Facebook feed, there may not be any), I would say there is no Biblical ambiguity on the issue, and no amount of mental gymnastics can yield a different result. In Romans 1, Paul writes:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

I intentionally chose this New Testament passage lest the applicability of the Old Testament scriptures which agree are called into question. It’s quite clear. It’s also clear from reading the entirety of the chapter that what we are experiencing is the result of our collective exchanging of the truth of God for lies. Too many of them to list here, but, in essence, determining that we are wise enough to decide truth for ourselves, apart from God. Unfortunately, it’s not a decision we get to make without consequences.

On the flip side, the list of sins in this chapter doesn’t end there. Paul lists envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slanderer, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, disobedience…Stop me when I get to yours. I know at one point in my life or other I have fit most of those.

The real issue is not any one sinful act, but the sin of pride-pride in deciding for ourselves what constitutes sin. It’s simply not our call to make, or remake. Our Court can determine what is and isn’t lawful-most of those things listed above are, in fact, legal. They are all still sin. That cannot be changed.

Fortunately, Paul also provides the remedy, and it isn’t conversion therapy, counseling, or any other such nonsense. It is repentance. And it’s not argument, legal challenges, social media, political rallies, or any other such nonsense that will lead to repentance. It is God’s kindness. His grace. His love. Romans 2:4.

On this we can all agree: #lovewins. But love didn’t win a week and a day ago in Washington D.C. because of five Supreme Court Justices, love won some 2000 years ago on a cross because of one man, Jesus Christ, son of the one and only Supreme God of the universe, who died for our sin because he loves us all.

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I Won…

Zondervan’s King James Version Old Testament Commentary from Zondervan and Koinonia.

In honor of the King James Version’s 400th anniversary, Koinonia was giving away an Old Testament Commentary or New Testament Commentary. All you had to do to was:

To enter just comment below by Thursday evening with a common English phrase which traces its origins back to the King James Bible!

My entry: “Out of the mouth of babes.”

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The Feasts of the Lord Redux

I recently taught a discipleship training class at our church entitled The Feasts of the Lord: Jesus Fulfills the Feasts. It was a three week (1x wk.) course.

I know I was blessed by and learned more from the study, preparation and teaching than anyone listening. Even so, I have an opportunity for an encore at the Sweetwater Aglow November meeting. It will be November 13, 10am-3pm at the Holiday Inn Express in Sweetwater. Lunch will be provided free of charge, and everyone is invited to attend. I hope to see you there.

One of these days, I will get around to posting about this.

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The Feasts of the Lord

This is one I have been looking forward to for a while, but now that it’s here, I’m a little nervous.

For the next three (3) Sunday nights I will be teaching a series at our church entitled The Feasts of the Lord: Jesus Fulfills the Feasts. It’s a topic that is absolutely fascinating, and I hope I am able to do it a little justice.

I believe the series will be recorded, and, if so, I will try to post the audio here. At the very least, I will try to post summaries each week.

I hope it goes well. Pray for me.

And if any of you happen to be in the Sweetwater, TX area any of the next three (3) Sundays, feel free to drop in.

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Book Review: The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate

I want to thank Adrianna Wright at InterVarsity Press for sending me a courtesy copy of The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John W. Walton.

Book Details:

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate

John H. Walton

Intervarsity Press, July 2009

ISBN 978-0-8308-3704-5

Buy The Lost World of Genesis One @ Amazon

I’ve been making my way through my stack of books for review on Genesis in, essentially, reverse order of receipt. I’m glad I started on the top of the stack and not the bottom because I would have read The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton a year ago, and my reading of the other books would have been colored by my reading of this one.

As with many theological questions, I think we tend to develop a theological framework and then read scripture within that framework. It would be very easy to do that with The Lost World of Genesis One because Walton’s  propositions are extremely persuasive and his conclusions compelling.

And I in no way intend for this to be a slight, quite the opposite.

Walton organizes The Lost World of Genesis One into a series of eighteen propositions. Admittedly, as a former high school debater, I initially found Walton’s proposition approach somewhat irritating because the organization allows for little reader interaction. What I mean is that Walton breaks his thesis down into so many of its tiny component parts that there is little to no mystery. Again, this is not a slight on the book, it is a confession of my own predisposition to be intrigued by ideas more than details, and Walton constructs the larger idea one detail at a time. By the end of the book, my mind was changed about the effectiveness of the approach because Walton leaves little room for disagreement.

Walton’s initial assertions (and I’m paraphrasing his propositions), our reading of Genesis 1 in terms of material creation is wrong because Genesis 1 was never intended to describe material creation. Instead, Genesis 1 is meant to describe the function of God’s creation rather than the manner and means of creation.

Walton asserts the ancients would have thought and perceived Genesis 1 in terms of function rather than elemental material creation. Walton begins his function analysis using the example of the creation of a computer. When is a computer a computer? Each hardware component is manufactured, but until each component is brought together there is no computer. Software programs are written and installed, but without a power source the computer is not functional. Even with a power source, unless a person uses the computer it remains non-functional. Walton’s question is one of ontology. When does the computer exist? At what stage is the computer created?

Walton maintains that if we think of Genesis 1 in terms of assignment of function, not creation of the component parts, the questions relating to Genesis 1 and scientific accuracy become irrelevant.

We should not worry about the questions of ‘truth’ with regard to the Bible’s use of Old World Science. … Adoption of the framework of the target audience is most logical.

Using other ancient creation accounts as comparisons, Walton concludes that in the ancient world, to create something meant to assign it a function, not create its material properties.

Again I’m paraphrasing, Walton next determines that the creation account in Genesis 1 is a cosmic enshrinement. It is the creation of a cosmic temple suitable for God to take up residence. He terms this view the cosmic temple inauguration view.

Walton also views this reading of Genesis 1 as a literal reading, as it would have been understood in the ancient environment as opposed to a reading that requires reconciliation with modern science.

But most people who seek to defend a young-earth view do so because they believe that the Bible obligates them to such a defense. I admire the fact that believers are willing to take unpopular positions and investigate all sorts of alternatives in an attempt to defend the reputation of the Biblical text. But if the Biblical text does not demand a young earth there would be little impetus or evidence to offer such a suggestion.

Walton also spends a fair amount of time discussing competing creation theories, as does virtually everyone else, so I won’t here, but the excerpt above should fairly well sum up the author’s take on competing creation accounts.

I give Walton a lot of credit for bringing something new to the table (see also my review of The Genesis Enigma). As I’ve written before, the old methods of resolving the Genesis debate don’t work because the debate itself is pointless. And viewing Genesis 1 in terms other than purely scientific terms is certainly a more appropriate approach.

My only real criticism of The Lost World of Genesis One is that the author falls into the same trap as most by (1) entering the public policy debate in proposition 18 which will unnecessarily ostracize young-earth creationists and ID proponents, and to a lesser extent (2) crafting the cosmic temple inauguration view such that is excludes other possibilities. I acknowledge that in the author’s Q&A at the end he acknowledges that Genesis 1 could theoretically be both functional and material, but that we cannot demand such a reading. But Walton doesn’t embrace those possibilities.

Fortunately, my reading of The Lost World of Genesis One has coincided with my intensive study of related material, specifically the feasts of the Lord and the tabernacle (and later temple). And it makes perfect sense to me that the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle would reflect a cosmic temple. So, for that and many other reasons, I would highly recommend The Lost World of Genesis One. I am a slightly less inclined to accept the cosmic temple inauguration view as the theory of everything on Genesis, but it certainly adds another dimension to Genesis 1 that is worthy of study.

Read it and enjoy it!

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Guest Post on Monday Morning Review

Regular readers will know that from time to time I write my pastor’s Monday Morning Review on his blog of same name.

It’s typically a recap of the previous day’s sermon and the goings on of our church. However, all of you non-member, iPhone/smartphone users might be interested in my short list of free Bible apps (there’s 5 to be exact) about midway through the post.

Enjoy!

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A Few Random Thoughts on Genesis

Many of you are aware of my preoccupation with Genesis. It is both a blessing and a curse, but a good kind of curse.

Said preoccupation, naturally, results in my reading a lot about Genesis. I am forever grateful to the publishers who have provided books for me to review at my request, and I am especially thankful to those who have taken the initiative to ask me to review books related to Genesis.

From much of this recent reading, several thoughts have emerged (most are obvious):

Efforts to reconcile the “creation” account in Genesis with “science” are futile, if fun to read. There is far too big a gap between the ancient Israelite culture and language and present-day Western culture and English to even know all that is meant by Genesis 1 & 2, much less prove what we cannot know. Absent a Mosaic or Pauline revelation from the Lord Himself (which I am still anxiously anticipating, whereafter I will immediately post all the answers), I’m afraid we will always be left wondering.

We shouldn’t stop wondering. The futility in seeking answers to ultimately unanswerable questions is no reason to stop asking. There are plenty of lessons to be learned short of, but probably more important than, the actual who’s, what’s, when’s and where’s (why’s deliberately excluded because we should know the why’s).

Fighting about it is also pointless. And we should stop that. Honestly, has anyone ever been converted by argument. Christian’s bashing anything or anyone acknowledging scientific evidence as such doesn’t help our cause.

No theory is exactly right, but maybe none of them are entirely wrong either. And isn’t that really the beauty of the Bible, generally, and Genesis, particularly. Do these ideas have to be exclusive of the others? Certainly not. The array of plausible ideas is perhaps the best evidence of a God worthy of our praise and His multi-dimensional Word worthy of our study.

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