Monday, May 28, 2012

For Memorial Day 

A great story about World War II and America, from Jay Nordlinger on National Review Online.

It's easy to snipe at American foreign policy from a position of security and peace.  It's easy to look at the wars we fight, and the cost of fighting them, and never have to consider what the cost would have been to not fight them, since we don't know.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pro-homosexual persecution 

Take a look at this excellent blog, Cranmer.  The blog is great purely on its own merits- erudite, insightful, and witty.  But it's also particularly relevant right now, since he is being attacked by his government for running an ad promoting gay marriage.  It's a prelude of things that may very well be coming here to the States as well.  Here's a good place to start on the issue.  I'd suggest we all need to pay attention and be active politically on this and related issues, unless we want to see this come here as well.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dad = Titus 

Dad = Titus.  A beautiful piece from Tim Challies.  I have a son named Titus, and I named him after that pastor in the Bible.  I don't know if Titus will be a pastor.  But his dad is a pastor, and I hope that Titus, and all my kids, will have the spirit that Paul calls Titus to have whether they are pastors or not, and I hope that Titus' dad can also aspire to those same characteristics as well.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Believer's Baptism- baptism robbed of its blessing 

The credobaptist (one who believes in believer's baptism only) robs himself of the chief benefit of baptism.
They usually hold their position on the grounds that baptism must be done as a response to conversion- only converted people should be baptized.  Therefore, baptism becomes mainly associated with their own decision for Christ.  With this focus on baptism, they become robbed of one of the primary benefits of baptism, the testimony of what Christ has done for us.  Baptism is a sign pointing me to the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is a testimony to me of all that God has done for me.  In Romans 6 Paul calls them to remember the fact of their baptism when struggling with temptation- in baptism, the believer is promised new life in the Spirit of God, a life which is inconsistent with sin.

But when the credobaptist considers his baptism, he is reminded of what he has done.  He is pointed to his own faith decision.  He is focused on what he brings to the table.  It is not uncommon for credobaptists to become baptized multiple times, unsurprisingly given their belief regarding baptism- if baptism is something I do, then it will always be inadequate to my needs and I will repeat it over and over with the hope of generating a positive enough experience or earning God's favor enough to conquer sin.  But if baptism points me to what Christ has done for me, then it need not be repeated- indeed must not be repeated.  Christ's death is sufficient; the Spirit is poured out on me like the waters of baptism are poured on me, and in Christ I have everything I need.  We can remember that baptism, remember that blessing which we have received from Christ forever, whenever we hunger and thirst after the things of God.

Of course the Credobaptist has access to this same benefit from his own baptism.  He need only repent of his vain idea that baptism points him to his own decision for Christ, and instead recognize that baptism was given to point us to His decision for us.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Why Gay Marriage Matters 

Stable family formation is absolutely vital to the survival and prosperity of any people.  If a culture is unable to form cohesive families, it is unlikely that the values and skills necessary for success will be passed on to children.  This is the state's interest in marriage.  The state has no interest in romantic love at all, whatever one's definition of that might be.

The fifth commandment is, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you."  Among the many implications of this commandment for the gay marriage debate are these:

1.  When one generation comes along and believes they know better than all previous generations how something as insanely complex as human society ought to work, so that they throw out the most basic definitions of that human society, you know that we are not long for the earth.

2.  God clearly has established marriages, a father and a mother, as the normative environment for children to be raised.  This doesn't mean that it's impossible for single parents to raise their children or even to raise them well.  But it's not normative.  Statistics for practically every social malady- poverty, crime, alcoholism, incarceration rates, etc- all bear this out.  Children not raised with a mother and father present all have much higher rates of all these problems.

Gay marriage is not a problem in isolation.  One thing the proponents of gay marriage are right about- it's hypocritical of the opponents of gay marriage to talk about the breakdown of the family unit and at the same time have no problem with no-fault divorce.  No-fault divorce has devastated this country; gay marriage is only the symptom of the far more fundamental problem, which is the rejection of the Biblical norms for sexuality and family structure in general.

Homosexuality is a sin.  Sexual desire toward the same sex is sinful, whether acted upon or not.  Jesus said that looking at a woman with lust is sinful, adultery in the heart.  God demands obedience in the heart and in the body, having made both.  Yes, every Christian struggles with sin and every Christian needs a huge amount of forgiveness.  But repentance means fighting against that sin, not enthroning it in your life.  Gay marriage is the enthronement, the triumph, of the sin of homosexuality in your life.  A family that is built on its very foundation on rebellion against God cannot succeed, cannot prosper, cannot be stable.  The lives that homosexuals lead in general bears this out; they suffer all sorts of destructive repercussions from their destructive lifestyles (drug abuse, alcoholism, crime, violence and many other problems occur at much higher rates among homosexuals).  When homosexuals kill themselves, is it because of bullying or because of the contradiction that exists right at the very heart of their existence?  Do Christians kill themselves when they are bullied?  As our society becomes more accepting of homosexuality and celebrates it constantly in the media, has this led to less suicide among homosexual youth?  But this is just what the Bible tells us- Romans 1:27- "Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." The destructive life that is the lot of the homosexual is not some external problem of a lack of societal acceptance.  It rises out of the homosexual's rejection of his own nature, and the penalty which God imposes on such rebellion.

The state cannot sanction gay marriage because the state does not define what marriage is.  God does, and enshrined it in His word.  The partner that God made for man was a woman, a helper corresponding to him. When the state sanctions gay marriage it is rebelling against God's definitions for society just as the homosexual does in his own life, and the results are the same.  In our society, we see all of the breakdown and destruction which has accompanied that rebellion.  This is not the fault of gay marriage, as it is illegal in most places in the country.  But gay marriage is just a continuation of that same trend, of the rejection of God's definition of marriage and God's provision for raising children.  The state's interest in marriage is in encouraging a stable environment for childrearing; with the high levels of promiscuity, substance abuse, violence and other social ills present in the homosexual lifestyle, it is clear that a homosexual relationship is not at all a safe place for the raising of children.

I read a great article recently on a related topic about the challenges facing transsexuals when they convert to Christianity.  One of the things that stood out to me was the connection he drew to Gnosticism, which was the rejection of the physical world as evil.  The line on trans-sexuality is that it is our feelings about our gender that matter, not our actual gender, which could simply be surgically altered.  But transsexuals' depression and dysfunction does not typically go down after the surgery.  Your sex is imprinted on every single cell in your body, every single chromosome you have.  You cannot change it just by shifting some body parts around and taking some hormones.  Our bodies matter, a great deal.  God made them and He defines how they function, not us.  Rebellion against the body that God gave us causes tremendous problems.  Whether homosexual, bisexual, transgendered or whatever, it is a rebellion against God's ordination for the nature of men and women and how they are to function together.  Rebellion against God never ends well.  It is a sort of Gnosticism to say that my feelings, my "spiritual" self can simply override my biological self.  It is to say that God made a mistake when He made your body.

A number of mainstream Christian denominations (most recently the PCUSA) have gone through convulsions over the gay marriage issue.  But really, what right do they have to protest it?  They already ordain women.  They deny the necessity of belief in a great many cardinal Christian doctrines like the inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth, the incarnation, the bodily resurrection and the like.  So on what grounds can someone in this denomination protest against gay marriage?

And so the gay marriage issue reveals a lot of hypocrisy.  It's helpful in that regard.  An awful lot of people have thrown out a lot of Biblical truth, and now that it has gotten "icky" when the issue gets round to homosexuality.  Back when the fight was hard, when the issues were not as obvious, when there was serious intellectual work needed to defend the doctrines of Scriptures, they ducked the fight.  Whether the issue was the importance of the resurrection or the importance of honoring God's command not to divorce, they dodged the fight.  When men were needed to repulse the enemy at the walls, they ran.  Now society is in shambles,  the enemy has occupied the town square, the very basic foundations of our nation are being jackhammered up, and now they want to fight.

We need to honor our fathers and mothers.  We need to respect the values of the past, and change them only very slowly and carefully.  I am reminded of the ancient stones in Japan warning of tsunamis, warnings which all too many ignored to their own harm.  Moral standards which have lasted for centuries can be washed away in a generation or two, and if we don't know why those standards were there in the first place, then we don't know what dangers they protect from.  Young people today support gay marriage at far higher rates than older people.  Too many young people do not honor their fathers and mothers; they think that their parents are just ignorant bigots, haters, out of step with modern society.  But the standards are there for a reason, and I am afraid that we as a society are going to find out soon, and are already finding out, what happens when you ignore the warnings of previous generations.  Just because you don't understand the reason for something doesn't mean there isn't a reason at all.

We as Christians should of course love homosexuals just as we love those guilty of any other sin.  We should not single them out for particular hostility, or any hostility at all.  They need the same thing we all do.  They need forgiveness and healing, the freedom from sin which is offered in the gospel.  They need a savior.  We ought not condemn them as if they were more worthy of hell than any of the rest of us.  Nor should we encourage them in their self-destruction, as if it would be loving to pretend that standing on the railroad tracks with an approaching locomotive was a healthy and viable lifestyle.  Above all, we should not enthrone that sin in our society as a legal standard and condemn anyone who opposes it.  That will be to inflict on the whole society the penalty due, rather than just the individual.

We have whole interest groups today advocating for the legalized violation of God's law.  Adultery, murder, theft, covetousness- every one of these sins is openly advocated by interest groups within our political system.  Do we really think God will ignore it?  And it all starts with the fifth commandment, honoring our fathers and mothers, honoring the Christian heritage that was passed down to us by our forefathers.  We ought not honor every single idea they held in the past.  Some things like slavery were obviously antithetical to Biblical standards and needed to be rejected.  But the Bible is the standard, not the fads of the day.  Honoring our fathers and mothers means honoring those that went before us, carefully considering the wisdom they have for us, carefully rejecting what is obviously unbiblical and being humble and slow to act when the consequences are not so clear.

More specifically to this debate, it means recognizing that a father and a mother are the ideal environment for the raising of children, and that in submission to God's providence we should do everything we can to encourage the formation of Biblical families and discourage and even forbid that which is contrary to God's definitions of family, of male and female, of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.  We must not enshrine the rejection of God's law at the heart of our own society.  We must labor to undo the damage that has already been done (abortion, no-fault divorce, pornography, etc).  Otherwise, we will not be long upon the land which the Lord has given us.

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