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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Isaiah_Spanish Square_Rome

The Prophet Isaiah, from a monument in Rome.

“How do you know when a politician’s lying,” runs the set up to an old joke. The answer? “When his lips are moving.”

Ouch.

Now granted, that’s funny joke. But it’s funny only because it highlights vast chasm most of us have seen between most political rhetoric from most political reality.

George H.W. Bush wont the 1988 presidential election in part on his famous promise, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Not long after his election he conspired with Congress to, wait for it…raise taxes.

More recently, Barak Obama told the nation in no uncertain terms that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.

And this wasn’t the only lie that was told with respect to Obama Care. After the passage of the bill, a video of Jonathan Gruber, MIT economist and one of the chief architects of the Affordable (sic) Care Act, surfaced that made clear that Obama Care always was a hustle, and that those behind the bill knew it all along. Gruber’s words were, “(L)ack of transparency is a huge political advantage and basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically, that was really, really critical to getting this thing (Obamacare) to pass.”

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Kaepernick_Takes a Knee

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the pre-game singing of the national anthem. 

It all began quietly enough. The photo that started it all, one tweeted out by Jennifer Lee Chan of Niners Nation, wasn’t even originally about Colin Kaepernick. In fact, you have to look pretty closely at the photo even to see the then San Francisco 49ers quarterback sitting by himself on the bench during the pre-game ceremonies on August, 26, 2016.

After the game in an interview with NFL.com’s Steve Wyche, Kaepernick explained the reasoning behind his protest. He said,

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL network, this was not the first time Kaepernick had protested during the national anthem, it’s just that no one had noticed it before.

On August 28, Kaepernick stated that he would continue his protest until he felt that the flag represented what it was supposed to represent and the country represented people the way it’s supposed to represent them.

From there, it became almost a commonplace to see football players, not just in the NFL but even those on the high school and college level, take a knee during the pre-game singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

The protest movement, having simmered for over a year, was given new life with Donald Trump’s comments at a rally in Alabama last week, saying players who knelt during the national anthem should be fired.

This prompted angry reactions from many NFL players as well as from players in other sports. Remarkably, the uproar this past week following Trump’s comments has been so loud that it even managed to drive North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s threats of nuclear war from the headlines.

Such an explosive story deserves at least some commentary. So here are a few thoughts of my own.

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Lutheran_RCCS Declaration

President of the Lutheran World Federation Bishop Munib Younan, left, conspires with Pope Francis, right, to overthrow the Reformation at a service in Lund Lutheran cathedral , October 31, 2016 (L’Osservatore Romano/AP)

 

You say you want a Reformation? Well, according to a recently released Pew Research Center survey of Western Europe and the US, many Protestants answer “Not so much.” Here are a few key findings:

  • About half of U.S. Protestants (52%) say both good deeds and faith in God are needed to get into heaven, a historically Catholic position. The other half (42%) say that faith alone is needed to attain salvation.
  • U.S. Protestants also are split on another issue that played a key role in the Reformation: 46% say the Bible provides all the religious guidance Christians need, a traditionally Protestant belief known as sola scriptura. But 52% say Christians should look for guidance from church teachings and traditions as well as from the Bible, the position held by the Catholic Church.
  • Just 30% of all U.S. Protestants affirm both sola fide and sola scriptura.
  • In nearly all of the European countries surveyed, majorities or pluralities of both Catholics and Protestants adhere to the traditionally Catholic view that both faith and good works are necessary to attain salvation. In fact, in every country except Norway (where 51% of Protestants say salvation comes through faith alone), belief in sola fide is a minority view even among Protestants.

The results of this survey, though disappointing, are hardly surprising. The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy among Presbyterians in first half of the 20th century ended with the liberal social gospelers seizing control of the mainline Presbyterian church and the subsequent purging of those who believed the Bible. Other Protestant denominations experienced upheavals. As a result, where Protestant churches once spoke with one voice on the critical issues of the source of authority in the church (scripture alone) and the means of justification (justification is by faith alone), Protestant witness has become greatly confused.

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HurricaneSurvivalGuide“I don’t believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt (sic) care about them.” Thus tweeted sociology professor Ken Storey shortly after Hurricane Harvey had ravaged Texas. This raises the question, just what were the sins of Texas that called for such dreadful punishment? Apparently, it was the voters of Texas’ decision to support Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Shortly after his unfortunate tweet, Storey was fired from his teaching position at the University of Tampa.

As a Christian, I reject the mechanistic concept of Karma. But I do find it supremely ironic that, even as I write this post, Hurricane Irma is ravaging the gulf coast of Florida, the very region where the city of Tampa is located and, presumably, where Ken Storey makes his home. But unlike the good professor, I take no delight in his suffering or that of other people of Florida. May God grant them safety while the storm lasts and a quick recovery thereafter.

But professor Storey wasn’t alone in blaming hurricanes on the deplorables. Actress Jennifer Lawrence also got in on the act, opining that the storms were “Mother Nature’s rage and wrath,” in response to climate change deniers’ refusal to confess, as it were, their environmental sins. This led one person on Twitter to raise the question about the current wildfires raging in Los Angeles. If Mother Nature is angry with Texans and Floridians for dismissing the sacred doctrine of man-made climate change, why is she angry at reliably environmentalist LA? Or what about the terrible drought that California suffered for several years? Or the earthquakes? Maybe Mother Nature is confused. Maybe she has multiple personality disorder. Maybe the wrath of Mother Nature is a figment of Lawrence’s imagination.

 

Houston flooding

Houston flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

 

In all fairness, it’s not just liberal professors and Hollywood types who make prophetic pronouncements without any sound basis. In the aftermath of 911, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson found themselves in hot water for suggesting that God permitted 911 to take place because of America’s support for abortion and homosexuality. Just how Falwell and Robertson knew American support for homosexuality caused God to strike the US, they did not say.

In the Bible we find examples of people making the same type of error as professor Storey, Jennifer Lawrence, Falwell and Robertson. For instance, In John chapter 9, the disciples, referring to a man who was blind from birth, asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They assumed that the man’s blindness was the result of some specific sin, but their assumption was misguided. Jesus responded to their question by stating, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

Job’s friends made the same mistake, attributing Job sufferings, without warrant, to some secret sin on his part, which they demanded time and time again that he confess.

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Nashville Statement

Marriage is to be between one man and one woman.

    – The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 24

This isn’t hard, folks. As theological questions go, the definition of marriage is pretty simple. It is a God-ordained, exclusive covenant between one man and one woman, and this the Christians has acknowledged for 2,000 years. In truth, the institution and its definition are much older than that, going all the way back to the creation of the world.

To borrow a turn of phrase from the Author of Hebrews, the biblical definition of marriage is milk, not meat. It’s something every Christian, even children, easily can, and ought to, understand.

And just as the Bible’s definition of marriage is simple and clear, so too is its stance on homosexuality: it’s a sin, and a particularly egregious one at that.

But as is the case with many things in this fallen world, what ought to be often times is not. Ours is a confused age, and truths that were almost taken for granted in earlier times now once again must be restated. One could point to any number of examples of the collapse of Western Civilization, but perhaps none exemplifies it better than the sweeping success of the homosexual agenda over the past 50 years.

Behavior that once was subject to sodomy laws is now celebrated at the highest levels of society. Governments, corporations, academics and the corporate media work diligently not only to promote the acceptance of homosexuality as normal and a thing to be celebrated, but also to cover in shame anyone who stands in their way.

The modern homosexual movement is usually traced back to the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village that occurred in June 1969. From there, the homosexual agenda has gone from strength to strength, culminating in the Supreme Court’s 2015 discovery that the U.S. Constitution supports the right of homosexuals to marry. The pace of change has been remarkable, and what was, just a few short years ago, considered filthy and shameful is now held up by all respectable people and institutions as the epitome righteousness.

Things have gotten to the point that, not only has it become socially unacceptable to speak out against homosexuality, but to so positively invites vilification from society’s mainstream institutions. Just last week, I wrote in this space about the SPLC’s declaring D. James Kennedy Ministries a hate group due to its opposition to the homosexual agenda. Many other examples of the same can be found

When I wrote that piece, I was unaware that a few days later that The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood would release the Nashville Statement, a work intended to affirm what the Bible has to say about men and women, marriage and homosexuality.

I first became aware of the Statement this morning while listening to Jason Hutchinson’s sermon during this morning’s church service. His comments were quite good and I will include a link to his sermon once it has become available.

After reading the document for myself, as far as I have been able to determine, the Statement is biblically sound and does a good job of setting forth Scripture’s clear teaching on sexuality. Further, the Statement also effectively refutes from Scripture some of the current arguments advanced in favor of homosexual marriage and transgenderism.

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IMG_0681

Dad and I at the Reds game, 6/17/2017.

“See that yellow foul pole,” dad said to me. “Yes,” I replied. “When Johnny Bench hits his home runs,” dad continued, “they have to stay inside of it.”

Memory is a funny thing. It’s strange what we forget, and perhaps even stranger what we remember with crystal clarity, years or even decades later.

That snippet of a conversation between dad and me took place over 40 years ago. The year, I think, was either 1973 or 1974. I was just a kid and was at the ballpark for my first ever major league game. It was the Reds versus somebody at Riverfront Stadium.

I recall a couple of other things from that day. I remember we sat in the blue seats, just a few rows behind the Reds dugout. I also recollect a foul ball coming pretty close to us, but not quite close enough to catch.

They say baseball has a way of uniting fathers and sons in a way different from other sports. That certainly was true in our case.

Growing up in Cincinnati in the 70’s as I did, I had the privilege of watching the Big Red Machine at its finest. All of us in my family naturally were big Reds fans. So there was that.

Further, there was little league. My dad was either a coach or manager of my team for several seasons, and we spent a lot of time together practicing, especially pitching.

I wasn’t a great natural talent, my brother has all the real athletic talent in the family, but dad taught me how to throw strikes and spot my pitches where I wanted. With his help and patience, I managed to be one of the better pitchers in my league for a few seasons. To this day, I still remember the rush of striking out hitters.

And although my baseball career, such as it was, ended long ago, one thing hasn’t changed. Dad and I are both still big Reds fans.

But baseball lessons we’re the only thing dad taught me. You see, dad was Tim the Toolman long before there was a show called Home Improvement. And as you would expect from any good do-it-yourselfer, he was constantly in need of a gopher. My labor was cheap and available, so as you can probably imagine, I was constantly involved in one of his projects or another.

When I was helping him build a piece of furniture, I remember the painstaking effort he put in to making sure the legs of the table he was building were strong and stable. He expertly cut the joints in the wood, glued them in place and clamped them together so they would dry n place.

But then he did something that puzzled me. He had me help him drill countersunk holes for woodscrews and put in crews to hold the legs along with the glue.

So I asked him, “Why are you bothering to put screws in to hold the legs in place when you’ve already glued them in.” Replied dad, “Because the screws make the joints stronger, and I don’t want this table just to look well-made, but actually to be well-made.”

That made a big impression on me.

To have true quality, it wasn’t enough for something just to look good on the surface, but it had to be thoroughly good, possessing quality both where it is seen and where it is not.

It was no accident that dad believed as he did about his carpentry and other pursuits. For his philosophy of craftsmanship really was just an extension of his faith in Christ.

As the apostle Paul teaches, God’s people are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. And great master craftsman that he is, God is not satisfied with a surface morality that appears good on the outside but is full of rottenness on the inside. No. But when God calls his people to saving faith, he effects a radical change in them from the inside out.

In Christ, God’s people are pronounced righteous at the bar of his perfect justice through faith in Christ alone and sanctified by his Word and Spirit. Christians are not just to look good, but to be good.

So thanks, dad, for a lifetime of lessons. You taught me to throw a fastball and to hammer a nail. Most of all, you taught me in word and in deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Happy Father’s Day.


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Bill Nye_2Riding the coattails of the successful homosexual movement, transgender advocates have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years. Transgenderism, the medical term is gender dysphoria, upholds the claim that it is possible to make a separation between the biological sex of an individual and that same person’s gender identity.

To put it another way, transgenderism claims that there really are women trapped in men’s bodies. Transgender advocates believe that science supports their view and that broader society has an obligation to accede to their demands to normalize what not that long ago was considered deviant behavior.

One particularly glaring, and as one critic described it “cringe worthy,” example of claimed scientific support for transgenderism was seen recently on Bill Nye The Social Justice Guy’s Netflix program Bill Nye Saves the World.

Using the cover of science to advance his evolving personal beliefs about the validity of transgenderism, Nye featured a performance by actress Rachel Bloom of a rap song titled “My Sex Junk,” the lyrics of which I just can’t bring myself to include in this blog post. If you have a strong stomach, you can read more about this charming little ditty here and here.

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