Open Letter to Bishop Richard Wilke

August 30, 2019

Yesterday, my wife sent me a post from her social media feed that she had found on a friends page.  We talked about it for a little bit and then I felt led to write a response to it.  Below is the link to the article I read and then my response follows.  It is a brief reply, because you can literally write books on these issues and verses. I wish I didn’t have to write anything about this topic, but I feel compelled to do so because of the ramifications that will take place if I don’t say anything. I am not harping on this issue alone, there are many areas the church can address. I view it as a continued conversation on the current issues in our culture. I have attempted to remove the log out of my eye first, before I point out someone else’s splinter. I seek to speak the truth in love at all times.  I welcome your comments below.

The Original Article from Bishop Richard Wilke

Gay daughter sent bishop back to Scriptures

 

Dear Rev. Wilke,

I read your article and too am saddened by the issue that is consuming our churches and culture today. But, for a complete different reason than you are. I see the erosion of truth and the authority of God’s Word being changed, diminished, and twisted not by outsiders of the faith, but those from inside. God does hold those who teach and have authority over others in higher regard.   Here are a few thoughts on your article.

First, I think it is very naïve of you to take your daughters “coming out” to not as an issue of influence.  While parents are the most powerful influence on their children, they are not the only influence. Culture, movies, music, and media are a powerful influence on people today.  I believe it was 18th century writer Andrew Fletcher that said “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”  

Secondly, you make the statement “Still, I knew I had some work to do. I needed to reconcile my commitment to scriptural authority with loving and accepting my daughter.” In this statement you unknowning contradict yourself. For you cannot keep Scriptural authority if you want to find an alternative interpretation of Scripture that lines up with your “loving acceptance” (perhaps a feeling or experience) of your daughter.  Instead, you should have chosen to reconcile your loving feelings with the authority of Scripture. I believe you may also have convinced yourself of a wrong definition of loving your daughter.  Who says love let’s people do what they want? Statistics show that often those who struggle with same sex attraction or have friends and family that do, will be more likely to find interpretations of the biblical texts that are pro-LGBTQ.  Indeed relationships are a powerful influence on our thoughts and beliefs. I could comment more about this wrong idea of love, but I will move on to the more important part of your article, the Scriptures.

Third, it is true that the Bible does speak “little” about the issue of homosexuality, there is a reason for this. The Bible was written in the shadow of the Genesis narrative with Adam and Eve.  This foundation flows through many of the Scriptures in the Old and New Testament, especially dealing with this issue which I will explain below. There was no need for the Bible to say much about it, Jewish scholars on both sides, conservative and liberal both agreed that it was behavior against God’s design. In fact you will find that no church leader up until the last half of the twentieth century supported it.

The heterosexual relationship/marriage is assumed all throughout the Bible. The Mosaic laws (even 3 of the 10 commandments), the psalms, books of wisdom, the gospels, many of the epistles, all use the corresponding pronouns to a male/female relationship. Not one time is a homosexual relationship spoken of in a positive light.

So now we come to the meat of this debate, the Scriptures.  You are right, context is indeed the key to finding out what is the proper interpretation of these passages. Many people have different “interpretations” of these passages, what stops someone from saying “that’s just your interpretation and I have my interpretation,” is the question, which one is the correct interpretation?

The Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah (from here S&G) is definitely not the strongest passage from which to base an argument against homosexuality, but since you mentioned it I will address it. While the townspeople may have acted inhospitable and in rape and violence, there is clearly more going on here. The men want to “know” the two visitors that are Lot’s guests. We both understand that the word “know” can be taken in different senses, but the context tells the key.  Lot replies to the men of the city,

“I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please.”

It would be very strange for Lot’s daughter to not “know” any other men in a sense other than a sexual one. Second, it is important to note that God had already judged the city for destruction, hence His discussion with Abraham (Gen. 18:20), before this inhospitable act. Third, if we are debating what the sin of S&G was that caused destruction it would be rather strange for God to destroy a city for inhospitality or pride alone. But, in the Mosaic Law homosexual acts are punishable by death.

You quoted the Ezekiel passage that talks about S&G but you failed to mention the other two passages that also speak of it. Second Peter 2:4-10 discusses the destruction of S&G. Peter writes in verse 7,

“if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked.”

The key word being “sensual” refer to sexual conduct. Jude 7 also discusses the two Old Testament cities. Jude states,

“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

This passage again points to a sexual immorality, the general term for all sexual sins, and the accompanying destruction. In your quote of the Ezekiel passage, we may get a more detailed account of what was going on with the things that were listed, but you stopped just short of a very telling phrase in the Ezekiel passage.  Ezekiel continues in verse 50,

“They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.”

The word “abomination” is very telling.  It brings up reflections of the Leviticus 18 passage. I will grant that there may have been other sins that were committed by the people of S&G but there is too much evidence that points to a wicked sexual act.

Next you discuss the Leviticus 18 passage and as a good revisionist you point out that Lev. 17-26 is part of the holiness code, intended strictly for Israel to follow and represent Jehovah God before the nations around them.

A closer examination of the chapters will show that Leviticus 18 really stands out differently than the rest of the chapters.  It begins and ends with the Lord reemphasizing a warning to follow the commands listed unlike those in the other chapters. All of the commands deal specifically with sexual sins and the other chapters are more randomized. Aside from the other texts that speak on homosexuality in the New Testament, you should also ask yourself the reason behind the holiness code to begin with. Did God not want Israel to perform child sacrifice to Molech “just because,” or was it perhaps the actual acts that God found detestable themselves. It was not simply a preference as one prefers ice cream flavors, God actually had a reason for commanding Israel not to live and practice as the other nations around them did. At the end of Leviticus 18 we read that God had already judged the other nations for these same practices.

“Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled” (vv. 24-27).

This seems to point that it was the actual acts themselves that were evil in the eyes of the Lord and not just meant to “raise the bar” in a spiritual moral way.

Turning to the New Testament, you seem to gloss over these verses rather quickly and not even give specific references. Romans 1:26-27 is probably the most telling of the verses in all of Scripture.  Yes, the most common form of homosexuality practiced in the Roman world was the pederasty that was done with an adult man and a young boy around the age of 12. But if you read what Paul says,

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

In the Roman world there was no female equivalent of pederasty, this was only a practice done by the men.  Also the Scripture says “men committed indecent acts with other men.”  Paul did not use the Greek word for a young boy as well. Furthermore, if Paul wanted to condemn the practice of pederasty he could have simply used the separate Greek term for that and not the general term that he used.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul elaborates on a number of sins that those who “practice” (being a key word) these will not inherent eternal life. This is a good time to point out that we all struggle with sin. That is a biblical truth. It is important to point out that nowhere in Scripture does it condemn anyone who is tempted with same-sex attraction. In the same way for someone who is tempted to steal, or use fowl langue, or another temptation.  We do not pick only on one issue and ignore the rest. I understand that for various reasons people struggle with temptations, but we must not give into those temptations, thus committing sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states;

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

In Greek, Paul uses two words that make up our English phrase above “men who practice homosexuality.” Arsenokoitai and malakoi are the two terms that Paul uses.  One for the male active partner and the other for the passive partner. The Greek word Arsenokoitai is connected with the passage from Leviticus 18 from Paul’s use in the passage and can illusions those practices that were described there. There have been articles recently that have tried to soften the language of Scripture. Things like, “The word homosexual was not added into the Bible until recently” and so on.  While this is true on a technicality, it misrepresents what the Greek says. It lists both the active and passive partner in a “homosexual act” and that’s where we have coined the term homosexuality from.  This is similar where people would say the word “trinity” is not in the Bible or “inerrant” but at the same time the words describe it to be the equivalent word used today.  There is much more that could be elaborated on with the Greek but I will move on to another issue in this article.

And finally, we come to Jesus and His teaching and what He did and did not address.  It is a bad argument to say that Jesus never discussed XYZ and so XYZ must be permissible. There are a lot of things that Jesus never discussed. Grand thief auto, internet pornography, and so on. I have already mentioned above why I believe the Bible (including Jesus) doesn’t speak more on this issue but Jesus did affirm the Genesis creation account between a man and woman in Matthew 19.

Many have quoted Jesus’s interactions with the sinners, tax collectors, and the women of the street. They quickly point out that His love for them was far and above what the religious leaders of the day had shown to them. I agree with you, Mr. Wilke, that we should all strive to imitate Christ in this manner. I would even agree that some Christians have been right out mean and hateful to the LGBTQ community and that is wrong. But, that doesn’t mean that we change what Scripture plainly teaches in order to change the behavior of some Christians who need a lesson on manners and just being friendly.

At the same time, pro-LGBTQ friendly Christians don’t seem to read the whole story of Jesus ministry. He did tell the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more.” He did heal people, invite them, but he also told them to leave there life of sin. I recently saw a quote by Sinclair Ferguson,

“It is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather He accepts us despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ’s sake. Nor does He leave us the way He found us, but to transform us into the likeness of His son.”

Many authors like Matthew Vines, Justin Lee have written in their books about the “bad fruit” that they believe Christians are producing when they do not accept the lifestyles of the LGBTQ community. They connect the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 with this same idea but they are missing Jesus point about what real fruit actually is.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-23,

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

 

Notice that Jesus started out by pointing out the false prophets were the ones who produced bad fruit. What is the good fruit that Jesus is talking about here? It is found in the last verses 21-23, “he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Obedience to God’s commands is the good fruit we should aim for. Not an obedience out of fear or to earn salvation.  It is a gift of grace, but obedience out of love for God who has done so much for us that we want to love Him back. This love toward God says, I am a sinner, I need to let Christ transform me and make me more like his character and his teachings. I yield my weakness, my struggles, and my desires to the one who gave me eternal life and saved me from my sins.

I pray that you may consider these Scriptures again and place God’s Word as the top authority over your life as I do. We can still love LGBTQ family, friends, and people that we all may interact with and have a candid conversation with them.

Humbly,

John W.

 

 

 


It’s Resurrection Day, Forget the Bunny!

April 7, 2012

Since, it’s Resurrection Day, I figure I would make an easy post and spend time with the family.   The following is a collection of objections and answers to the resurrection of Jesus.  It has been a slowly growing as I read more  and add things to the Pile.   I will cite the authors and books at the end.  Many books have the similar information.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17 “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins”  As a Christian, EVERYTHING hangs on the resurrection.  Everything.  IT has turned many skeptics into followers.  I hope this will add to your faith and make it stronger.

OBJECTION 1: IT IS UNREASONABLE TO BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION

Because of the beliefs of many atheists and skeptics it is the last option that they would accept because of their presuppositions about the Bible, miracles, or belief in the existence of God.

ANSWER:

1. Because the resurrection was a physical resurrection and not just a spiritual one, there are many difficulties to faking the resurrection by stealing the body or some other means of trickery.  You have the following points.  Wrapped in a linen cloth and about 100 pounds of spices.  (Mixed together they form a gummy substance) Placed in tomb with a large stone weighing anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.  There were Roman guards placed at the tomb to guard against any chance of trickery.  A Roman seal was placed on the tomb that if broken, would call for an investigation and death by crucifixion of the one responsible.   If a Roman Guard left his post he would face strict punishment.    There must have been a good reason for the guards to flee.

2. The Biblical account of the resurrection has the women to be the first ones appearing at the tomb.  This seems to be issue if you believe that the claims of the resurrection were made up.  During the Biblical times women had no right to much anything, they were not given the ability to testify in court except in a few cases.  If someone wanted people to believe a lie that Jesus really was alive, then why weaken the argument with women.  The reason the women were the first to the tomb and to witness Jesus is perhaps, because it actually happened that way.

3. Another issue is the reaction of the disciples.  The disciples had scattered after the arrest of Jesus for fear of their own lives.  Annas the high priest had been asking questions about Jesus followers also.  They had locked themselves in a room in fear of persecution that Jesus had warned them about.  (John 15)  Jesus had appeared to them and shown them his hands and side.  (Proof)  What followed then was the transformation of their lives.  They went from hiding to boldly proclaiming the news of his resurrection.   They were also willing to face opposition, cynicism, ridicule, hardship, prison, death, and death.

4. After the resurrection, the Christian faith exploded and many Jews had become followers of Jesus.  In doing so they left several key tenants of their faith behind.  Below are a list of some of the major ones.

  • The animal sacrifice system.
  • The binding supremacy of the laws of Moses.
  • Strict monotheism to a belief in the Trinity.
  • The Holiness of the Sabbath.
  • Belief in a conquering messiah to a humble, servant in Jesus.

5. The conversion of “hardcore” skeptics in NT times.   There are 3 mentioned in the section.  The apostle Paul, James the half-brother of Jesus, and Thomas who was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them in the room.    Each of the 3 are listed with the scripture references  within the Bible that show their conversion.  Paul is of course the strongest example because he was a well-known figure and his letter to the Corinthians is dated the earliest written and  he is well-known outside to the Bible  many with his writings.

6. Only the resurrection would explain the growth and survival of the church.  It is well documented about the persecution of the Christians in the first century.  Nero was well-known for his hatred for the Christians and Nero blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians.  So, if the resurrection was fake and made up why would all the Jews and Gentiles have placed their lives in so much danger and trouble in less it was true?

7. There were too many appearances of Jesus to have the resurrection easily dismissed.   The 1 Corinthian letter from Paul lists the great number of people whom Jesus revealed himself too.  (Chapter 15 , also Acts 1:3)  At the time of Paul’s letter which is about 55-57 A.D.  Paul included that many of those witnesses were still alive.  This was most likely 20  years or so after the death and resurrection.  There would have been plenty of voices of opposition to Paul’s claim that Jesus had resurrected.

This proof reminds me of the Elvis or now, Michael Jackson example I have used for many years.  Imagine today that people started claiming that Elvis or Michael Jackson was not dead but had come back to life.  What if the number of people started growing and more and more people joined the band wagon.  All the families or government would have to do is open the casket or dig up the body to silence the critics.  One objection might be, “well the families wouldn’t want to do that.”  Maybe, but keep in mind that the government in Jesus day was not like that of today.  If they wanted to put an end to the Christian movement, all they had to do was produce the body.  They didn’t because they could not produce the body, it was gone.

OBJECTION 2: JESUS WAS NOT REALLY PHYSICALLY RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD, BUT RATHER IT WAS HIS ESSENCE – SOME PART OF HIM THAT LIVED AMONG THEM.

Many times critics will claim that the disciples did not see a real physically resurrected Jesus but rather a spiritual one or something to the equivalent.

ANSWER:

This would imply that the disciples went on and on about the resurrection of Jesus dishonestly and new it was a lie.  Or at the least ALL had hallucinations of Jesus resurrection to believe it was real.    I will look at the second part of the last sentence in another Objection next.  In Paul’s letters to the churches he specifically uses the word “Soma” which is translated body.  His repeated use of the term implies very much that Jesus had a physical resurrection.   Rhodes lists the scriptures that show us Jesus had a special glorified resurrected body, in which I will list for reference.

  •    Luke 24:39 – See my hands and feet, touch me to see.
  • John 2:19-21 – Jesus told about destroying the temple in 3 days and building it back up again.
  • Luke 24:30, 24:42-43, John 21:12-13, Acts 1:4  – Jesus ate food  4 different times.
  • John 20:17, Matthew 28:9, Luke 24:39 – He was touched and handled by many different people.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:35-44 – Paul talks of the body that goes down into the grave, and the body that comes up.

OBJECTION 3: JESUS WAS NOT PHYSICALLY RESURRECTED BUT SEEN BY HIS FOLLOWERS IN A SPIRITUAL SENSE.

This objection comes from the objection of skeptic Keith Parson, where he notes that the famous scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 uses the word “ophthe” which has the meaning of either “seeing” with the literal eye or “seeing” with mind or spirit.  In other words because we do not know the clear meaning of that word, we can assume that it was a spiritual vision they saw and not a physical one.

ANSWER:

This objection does not fit well with the rest of the Bible and the use of others who saw the resurrected body of Jesus.    The numerous passages in the gospels as well as the other Pauline epistles.    It also does not work within the context of the same letter of Corinthians.  Paul also uses the phrase heaven vision to make a vision of a different type.

You can also look at the same answer above for more of the same evidence of Jesus having a physical resurrection and not just a spiritual one.

OBJECTION 4: THE DISCIPLES OR OTHER PEOPLE STOLE THE BODY OF JESUS, AND THE DISCIPLES ASSUMED HE HAD RISEN FROM THE DEAD.  Because we have tons of evidence that bodies don’t just rise from the dead or disappear into nothing or Heaven.  The only two options that we are left with is that someone stole the body or the tomb was not empty.

ANSWER:

There are several issues that make the likelihood of the disciples taking the body of Jesus.  Below are some listed from the first objection above.

Wrapped in a linen cloth and about 100 pounds of spices.  (Mixed together they form a gummy substance) Placed in tomb with a large stone weighing anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds.  There were Roman guards  placed at the tomb to guard against any chance of trickery.  A Roman seal was placed on the tomb that if broken, would call for an investigation and death by crucifixion of the one responsible.   If a Roman Guard left his post he would face strict punishment.    There must have been a good reason for the guards to flee.

It also is worth pointing out that the disciples were in no shape to steal His body.  There were hiding and on the run from the Jewish rulers.  It also goes back to the basic principle that “no sane person” would die for something they knew was a lie.  It was not worth all the trouble or persecution they received.

OBJECTION 5: THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS HALLUCINATED THAT JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD.

ANSWER:

Hallucinations generally happen to individuals and not large groups or multiple people.  The 1 Corinthians 15 passage says that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time.  Did all these people have a hallucination at one time?  The answer is not likely.

Books Referenced:

McDowell, Josh; Evidence That Demands a Verdict, second edition.

Zacharias, Ravi; Can Man Live Without God

Sherrod, Chris; Faith, Fact, and Reason Study #4 Jesus is ALIVE

Rhodes, Ron; Answering Objections of Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics


The Bible and Slavery

November 17, 2011

I recently had a conversation with someone about the issue of slavery in the Bible.  He expressed that it was one issue that kept him from believing that the Bible was inspired by God.   I thought I would use the conversation as a blog post and not let the research I have done go to waste.

I have heard other objections and questions on slavery before.  Some of the typical things said are; If slavery is objectively wrong, why would God allow it?  God command the Israelite people to take slaves.  Christians in the southern United States had slaves and used the Bible to justify their actions.  The Bible never says that slavery is wrong.   As I mentioned before in a previous post that most of these are Straw Man arguments that misrepresent the truth of the matter.   Here is what the Bible does say about slavery.

First, we must realize that slavery was not God’s original intent for mankind.  We see this in another issue that was raised to Jesus in Matthew 19:3-8.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”  “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

Perplexed by the first answer that Jesus gave them, they asked Jesus about the laws of Moses that concerned divorce.  Jesus response was to the heart of the issue and pointed to the source of the problem, the harden hearts of the people.  God’s original design was for no one to experience divorce, but since the fall and the sinful nature of man, God gave Moses rules to help protect the people involved in the divorce.  The same principle can be applied to slavery as well.  Slavery was not God’s original plan from the beginning, but because of men’s sinful nature, God gave rules to help regulate and protect those who were slaves.

Secondly, the Biblical idea of slavery is not the same as African slavery that most Americans think about.  Leviticus 25:25-55 outlines the laws that God set for Israel to follow concerning someone who owed a debt and could not pay it.  God allowed them to sell themselves voluntarily and work off their debt.  The person who bought them could only keep them for a maximum of 7 years and then they had to let them go free, regardless if the debt was paid off or not.   I won’t go into all the details you can read it for yourself, but God set rules up concerning slavery after it had already been in practice so that people would not be taken advantage of by others.  The first slaves in the Bible came from Ham, one of the sons of Noah.

Not only was Biblical slavery or being a bond-servant voluntary but we know that they were not treated like slaves in America or other parts of the world with the respect of harshness and physical violence.  Many of the slaves were treated just like family and friends.  They were given positions of leadership in the home over children and possessions.  The story of Joseph is a great example in Genesis 39.  Realizing that not everyone might not treat their purchased slaves as they should, God also set up laws concerning the treatment and protection of the slaves.   Deuteronomy 23:15-16 says “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. 16 Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.”  This gave the slaves a way out of the arrangement if they were being treated unfairly.  In Exodus 21:16 God strictly forbid the kidnapping of an individual and selling them as a slave.  In the same chapter, God also declared that if even an owner hits a slave and damages as little as an eye or tooth, that the slave can go free and the debt is canceled.  As you can see this is vastly different from the African slavery that was practiced by those in America and other parts of the world.

The most popular verses that are used by those who argue against the Bible are found in Leviticus 25:44-48.

44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.  47 “‘If an alien or a temporary resident among you becomes rich and one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself to the alien living among you or to a member of the alien’s clan, 48 he retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself. One of his relatives may redeem him:

Those who argue against the Bible will use this verse claiming that God commanded or gave permission to Israel to take slaves from the other nations around them.  The way the words are used make it look like that is the intent, but the truth is the scripture is not taken in context and if you look at the surrounding text and the language you can come to the correct meaning.  First, God has just laid out the laws concerning treating their own countrymen as slaves and warned them to treat them not like a slave at all, because they are Abraham’s children.  When the scripture says that they may keep the slaves from another country for life, it only meant beyond the 7 years maximum because they were not part of the nation of Israel.  When the debt was paid off the slave could go free.    In verse 44, the word “come” literally translates from the Hebrew word meaning “that exist” this makes the implication of the verses read differently. It would appear that God was referring to the slaves they already had possession of.  To further add a nail in the coffin, when you look at this verse in context with all the other verses that we have examined you can’t interpret it as a command to take slaves, because God has already spoken against it.  The idea that scripture interprets scripture is in play here.

One last objection that I have recently heard was that if God was an omniscient God, He would have know how people would have misused God’s Word to defend and justify horrific versions of slavery, Why didn’t God say or do something to stop it by including it in the Bible.  Yes, he would know that men would pervert his original design for life, but the question I have is would God break the free will He gives to man to stop the horrific treatment of a slaves.  I believe the answer is No.  We do know that any one can twist the Bible to make it sound like it supports their point of view on an issue.  It is easy to take one verse or a group of verses and single it out to read like you want it to.  Unfortunately, the slavery that was practiced  by the Christians in the southern United States was wrong, and those who were Christians didn’t bother to look at what the word of God had to say about the issue.  They were wrong.   At the same time there were also many other Christians who knew that it was wrong and choose not to participate.  Truth be told in history, it was the Christians who sought to free the slaves in England and America.  A popular Christian minister, William Wilberforce was one of the ones leading the charge in England.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


A Biblical Base for Apologetics

October 11, 2011

Years ago my brother who is also in ministry said something to me that stuck with me.  I didn’t really understand at that point what he was trying to tell me, but over the last few years I’ve seen just how important his advice is when it comes to engaging others with your worldview.  Tim, (my brother) said that when you talk and share with others and deal with questions about the universe and the existence of God, you always need to do it from a Biblical base.

Sharing from a Biblical base means that you align your illustrations, words, and actions with the Bible within the conversations you have with people.  The reason you do this is to show the coherence of the Biblical worldview to any situation or information we come across.  Let me clarify that I am not saying you should  bias your opinion of the evidence to reach a Biblical conclusion.  That would be a wrong approach and could also be faulty logic called Begging the question or Circular reasoning.

For example, lets say that  a conversation with your hairdresser or barber comes up because he makes the statement, “There is a lot of evil out there in the world.”  This will open up for you to share with them about what the Bible says about evil.  You can use questions like “Do you know what the Bible says about evil?” or statements like “the Bible says that there is a lot of  evil inside of us all too.”  These are great transitions into opportunities to share the real gospel of Jesus.

Even if you are dealing with the question of the existence of God, before even talking about evidence for Jesus or the Bible you can use the Bible to show how it lines up with the understood knowledge of the universe.   For example, scriptures that point to the earth being round (Isa 40:22) or that the earth is hung on nothing in space. (Job 26:7)

The reason you always need to talk and debate from a Biblical worldview is so that others see how the Bible is unique and is really  the best coherent “lens” in which we see our world.  You can use the Bible to compliment the evidence and reasons for your believe and worldview.  Areas like morals, ethics, truths of life, evil, and leadership are just a few of the subjects you can relate the Bible to.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.


Misconceptions

October 10, 2011

A  few days ago a question was posed to students in a secular student alliance club  at a local high school in my area.   The question was “What will it take for you to believe in the existence of a god?”  Answers begin to come it and last I checked there was 230 comments on the question.  As I read through the answers and discussion that followed I noticed how misconceptions about God, the Bible, and Church can keep many people from having a theistic worldview and from trusting in the Christian worldview.  Here’s what  I mean.

One student answered, “To believe in the existence of an all-powerful god with the general well-being of humans in mind as most universalizing religions do, I would have to see evidence of a world with less… ‘bad’…”  I believe this student has a misunderstanding of why the world is bad.  Perhaps he thinks God is not great enough to create people who are perfect, or that perhaps God is to blame for the bad in the world.  This is clearly a misunderstanding of the free will that God gives us as humans and the sinful nature that we are born with.  God doesn’t create evil, he only makes it possible.  This is a misunderstanding of human nature.

I have already covered the misconception about faith, it you missed it you can click here to read about it.

Another student says “For me to worship that entity in addition to believing it exists, I’d also need evidence of the power of prayer, heaven, or hell”  Among other things, this student is looking at the power of prayer as a possible proof.  What do most people think about prayer?  Is it like a magic genie where God grants you whatever you want?  Do we as Christians push this thought by our words and actions?  We know God answers prayer, but we know that He doesn’t always answer them how we want.  We also know what the Bible says that we pray we must pray in Jesus name and that we must align our requests with the holy scriptures.

A student that I have been talking with recently made this comment, “The holy scriptures that people study today are translations of the originals (which we don’t have) and as we all know, things are always lost in translation.”  he went on to add “the original documents were written centuries after the stories that they depict took place. Doesn’t this make you wonder about the validity of the words that you’re studying?”  This student has received some faulty information that I have seen before.  Unfortunately there are people who want to misrepresent the truth, on both sides of the debate I might add.

There were some great questions and comments made by the students, some of them I could see are genuinely searching God and welcomed any thoughts by the Christians that interacted with them.

So what do you do to clean up the misconceptions?  Here are a few suggestions.  Know what the truth is for yourself.  Do the research, look at the evidence, and be able to communicate with others the evidence in a way that is easy and makes sense.  You should also know what others are saying against the truth and be prepared to respond to it.  Winston Churchill once said “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”   For those who know the truth and yet try to cover it up or repress it, do the most damage.

It is amazing to me how many people have already made up their mind about  the validity of the Bible, but have never read more than a few chapters of it for themselves.  I do understand why some may have difficulties with it.  Miracles for example may be one reason.  In the near weeks we will look at the miracles within the Bible.  Maybe they even read through it once completely, and think that they have a good grasp on it, that might be more dangerous.  I’ve been reading and studying it for about 25 years now and I have much to learn of it myself.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.


Building a Firm Case for Christianity

October 4, 2011

Once you know what people believe  you will know where to start building a firm case for a Christian worldview.   If you missed the Conversational apologetics post I suggest you read it.  It will help you discover what people believe, or what worldview they have.  As a disciple of Christ we all know that it is our responsibility to share the Gospel of Jesus with those who ask us about our faith.   You may even have the desire to do so, and have been preparing for an opportunity to do so when the chance comes.  Where do you start?  Should you take a straight path to the cross?  Should you share Bible verses with them?  While it is never wrong to share the message of the cross with anyone, there may be a few other helpful points to consider as you began building your case for Christianity.

If you look at the illustration below, it shows you the progression that it takes to hold a Christian worldview.  You cannot hold a Christian worldview until you move from an atheist position.   Similarly, you cannot hold a Christian worldview, until  you know what type of theistic position you hold.  Do you believe in one God (monotheistic), more than one god (polytheistic), God is in everything (pantheistic), etc…  Likewise, you will have difficulty trying to convince someone that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if they don’t believe that a God or gods exist.  The same way someone will have difficulty with the claim that Jesus is God, if they don’t trust the Bible as a reliable source.

As you talk and ask questions to others about what they believe you will discover what they believe and where they are in the progression above.   Then you will know where to start with helping them along the way towards a Biblical worldview.  A friend of mine, Chris Sherrod, who teaches apologetics and has been published in several books uses an illustration of a set of pillars to show how the different evidence builds upon more evidence to provide a solid case for Christianity.

Building a Case for Christianity

Over the next weeks and months we will begin to break down the 4 pillars above and examine the evidence that God has given us.
As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


Why I believe

September 28, 2011

Why I BelieveStarting off from the gate I want to summarize why I believe, what I believe about the existence of God and my faith in the Christian God of the Bible, and His incarnate name given in the New Testament, Jesus.  This blog is meant to be a general one and I will spend the next months and years breaking it out piece by piece so that it can be swallowed and enjoyed bit by bit.

After studying many of the worldviews through books, articles, talking with people in person, I have concluded that my Christian world view is the most comprehensive, complete, and logical worldview of all the many different worldviews including atheism.  While it still holds some difficulties and challenges, it stands tall over all the other worldviews.  In no particular order, here is Why I Believe…

1. Faith.  Yes Faith, there is a dual definition of faith floating out in the sea of apologetics, in short a blind faith and a Biblical faith.  I will explain this in greater detail in a soon coming post, but in short I believe Christianity takes and uses both those types of faith. I am convinced that most people do not understand the true definition of Faith.  Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

2. Creation.  When I examine the world in which I live, I see evidence for a beginning of the universe, I see intelligence, and a mind behind the matter.  I have not found any answer in the material world that points to other trustworthy conclusions.

3. The Human Mind and Soul.  Why are we conscience? Why are we special?  Why do we have the ability to reason and think?  Why do we have  moral absolutes?  How do we judge what good and evil is?    In a world without God, these things are not possible.   The Bible describes the human condition perfectly.

4. The Bible.  The Bible makes the bold claim to be written  inspired word of God, but should we just except the Bible as God’s Word, because the Bible tells us so?  The Bible is a reliable book that is written in many different styles, by more than 40 authors, on 3 continents, over a period of about 1,500 years.  It is the most unique book ever written and for centuries it has stood the test of time and scrutiny by many.  When you compare the Bible to all other religious books, the Bible stands tall.

5. Historical Jesus.  Jesus was a real person, despite the constant attempts to blur the evidence.  But, Jesus made some bold claims about who He was and what His mission was about.  There are many sources, outside of the Bible that confirm the existence of Jesus and record some of the claims He made that are in the Bible.  Christians can even exclude even the evidence of the Bible and some of the other questionable secular documents and still make a case for Jesus existence, that is solid.

6. The Church. Yes, the church.  I realize that sometimes the church (people) can look pretty bad and can be rather disappointing, but the church (the people) has also made some great strides and impacts in the world in where we live.  Christians have been of the forefront leading the charge in several advancements for good in our world.  Slavery, Women’s rights, and even Science.

7. Religion.  Religion is mans attempt to come to God.  Religion shows how we have a yearning to get to God, just like we have a desire for food or procreation.  God gives us a desire that can be met by Him just like finding food and companionship.  Even though many people have wrongly been lead into believing in something that they haven’t researched, the desire for God is there.    I have always preferred the phrase, relationship over religion.

8.  The Empty Tomb.  Perhaps the greatest evidence for my belief.  The resurrection is key to Christianity.  Without it, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14 , my faith is in dead.  When you examine the evidence for the resurrection you are not left with any other choices that make any sense at all.  Jesus made claims that would rise from the dead, something that  charlatan would not dare to do.

9. Personal Experience.   I realize that my own personal experience is not as strong a proof as some of the other items listed above.  For example, I could say that God answered a prayer request of mine, a Mormon could say the same thing.  Some personal experiences are subjective.  But, this doesn’t mean I should throw out the personal experience all together.

Let me stop you before you start to pick apart these individual items by saying that no single one of these proves anything.  No, I cannot in a denotative way point to God and say “see, there He is” like I might point out Bob who fixed my car or Larry who made me a sandwich.  (I will address why I think that this is perfectly how God designed it to be in a later post.)  Let me point out that each of these individual areas lead or point to a particular conclusion that God does exist, and that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It is the sum of the conclusions that add up far better than any other worldview.  Biblical Christianity uses all the different methods of science, philosophy, reason, and reality to build a strong case for a Christian worldview.  No other worldview can claim that which Christianity does, they either fail in arguments in one or more areas by contradicting themselves or by not being able to produce the evidence that Christianity does.

If you are searching for answers, and want to start looking at different worldview, that is great, can I offer a suggestion?  Start with Christianity.  There is something about Jesus that most of the other major worldviews want to include him in their teaching.  To Muslims, Jesus was one of 28 prophets, In Hinduism Jesus is a good moral teacher, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons view Him as the Son of God, by which we can earn our salvation.  Jesus is the central feature in Christianity, not only because of his teachings but because of who He is, and claimed to be, God.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.  I am looking forward to the breakdown of these items that I have listed above.  In my next few posts I will give some basic information about apologetics and lay a foundation and order down for looking at the evidence piece by piece.