Category Archives: Culture

Guest Post: Romans 13 and the American Christian

(NOTE:  For anyone concerned by the direction Western Civilization is headed, Romans 13 can seem like an impossible passage. How do we balance, for instance, the commandment to honor marriage in a society that seems to think it can redefine marriage? How do we protect human life inside the womb in a society that thinks in can redefine personhood? Indeed, Christians throughout millennia have wrestled with exactly how to balance obedience to Romans 13 with obedience to God’s commands. For example, if we take Romans 13 as literally as possible, then the priests who saluted Hitler were doing the right thing. Do we actually believe that?

As the moral fabric of our society continues to deteriorate, how are we to balance the tension between being subject to the governing authorities with honoring God with our lives? Josh and I have discussed this topic off and on for a few years now and I feel like he has articulated a very helpful understanding of what it actually means to steward our American citizenship. While our identity is in no way based upon where we live, we have been granted certain freedoms and their inherent responsibilities. We have a duty to use our freedoms to love our neighbor and honor our Maker (Gal. 5:1). On this 4th of July, I hope Josh’s perspective–with which I agree wholeheartedly–will challenge you to rethink what it means to be a Christian in America. Take some time to think consider it, wrestle with it, and let us know what you think! – daniel)

Romans 13 and the American Christian

I’m an American. For years I’ve watched our country go in a direction contrary to wisdom, righteousness, and the standards I see in Scripture. With that in mind, I’ve struggled greatly with the lessons inherent in Romans 13, which teaches that we must subject ourselves to the governing authorities and leaves no room for rebellion. The chapter doesn’t give us leeway to “obey until this point” or “submit until X line is crossed.” So how does that work for me, as an American?

For the moment, I’m not concerned with what Romans 13 looks like for the rest of the world, or what it looked like for Americans as far back as the Revolutionary War (which, by nature, was a rebellion). I’m not even primarily concerned with what this looked like for the Romans to whom Paul was writing – although this has some bearing on the issue at hand, the first application of these principles (Romans under Nero) is less of a concern to me than the present application of these principles (Josh under the current American government). These are all valid concerns, discussions, and Bible studies; however, they’re beyond the scope of what I’m going to be discussing today.

First off, it’s essential to review the Scripture at hand:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” – Romans 13:1-7

Application of this passage requires a basic understanding of the government system under which you live: if you live in an empire (as did the first readers of this passage), that would be defined as a “rule by an emperor” and he would be your ultimate earthly authority. If you lived under a monarchy, defined as “rule by a king,” then he would be your ultimate earthly authority. In the same way those under a democracy (rule by the people), an oligarchy (rule by a ruling class), or a theocracy (rule by God or a god) would have different authority figures. This is essential because you would be disobedient to Romans 13 if you tried to obey an emperor if you lived under a monarchy, or if you appealed to public opinion when you lived under a theocracy.

The government system in the United States is a constitutional republic, defined as a “rule by law.” Wait a second, that doesn’t make sense – don’t all nations have laws? Yes, all nations have “rule of law” but only a republic is “rule by law.” What’s the difference? In the same way that the definitions of the other types of governments identified the highest authority (e.g., emperor, king) a republic identifies the highest authority: in this case, the Constitution of the United States. How do we know this is true and it isn’t some ruling body or person? Check out the oaths of office below:

President of the United States:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Congressmen, Senators, and Justices of the Supreme Court:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely,without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Each of these officials, representing the highest positions of the three branches of the federal government, pledge allegiance and subordination to the Constitution. The men and women who inhabit these offices are merely representatives for the Constitution; they bear no legitimate power or authority outside of those confines.

But what happens if Congress passes a law, or the President issues an executive order, or even if the Supreme Court makes a ruling contrary to what the Constitution says? By definition, that law, order, or ruling would be unconstitutional and unenforceable. But when would it be unenforceable? If Congress passes a law that you think is unconstitutional, are you required to obey it until it is struck down by the Supreme Court or rescinded by Congress? For guidance on this, let us turn to the Sixteenth American Jurisprudence, Second Edition, Section 177:

“The general misconception is that any statute passed by legislators bearing the appearance of law constitutes the law of the land. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statue, to be valid, must be in agreement. It is impossible for both the Constitution and a law violating it to be valid; one must prevail. This is succinctly stated as follows: The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. An unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed. Such a statute leaves the question that it purports to settle just as it would be had the statute not been enacted.”

“Since an unconstitutional law is void, the general principals follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority on anyone, affords no protection, and justifies no acts performed under it…. A void act cannot be legally consistent with a valid one. An unconstitutional law cannot operate to supersede any existing valid law. Indeed, insofar as a statute runs counter to the fundamental law of the land, it is superseded thereby. No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it.” (emphasis mine)

Per Romans 13, we are absolutely required to be faithful and obedient to the supreme earthly authority governing the land in which we live (as long as that doesn’t require us to compromise our faith). The supreme authority in the United States is the Constitution; all public officials are required to swear that they will uphold it. Per the summary above, no unconstitutional law is ever required to be obeyed, since it is unconstitutional and illegal (read: null and void) from the first moment it was passed and not when it was first declared unconstitutional by a court.

The question then becomes how we can accomplish this. The first step is education: we have to know what the Constitution says and how it is applied in our lives. If we are ignorant of the text of the Constitution and its application we are as unfaithful citizens as we would be unfaithful Christians if we ignored the text of the Bible and its application in our lives; since Romans 13 requires us to be good earthly citizens, being poor earthly citizens means we’re being poor Christians as well. The second step is inspection: we must constantly compare the laws imposed upon us with the ideals of the Constitution; if/when we find inconsistency we are then obligated to participate in the third step: disobedience to those laws which aren’t laws at all. This is, by far, the most difficult step for the average Christian to take. We want to believe that our government has our best interests in mind, that anything they do will be within the boundaries of the authority they are given. Sadly, such is often not the case.

Let us examine the difference between the right to command and the power to command. If a gang of thugs bursts into your home in the middle of the night and overpowers you, beats your children, and rapes your wife and daughters, there’s no doubt that, in that moment, they have power over you. They do not, however, have the right to command power over you. If you were to sit idly by and allow them to have their way with your family, such would be completely contrary to the spirit of Romans 13. You should actively resist them, to the death.

Per Ephesians 5:22-24, the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church; the wife is required to submit to the husband. That, however, doesn’t mean any wife is required to submit to any husband; just because I’m a husband doesn’t give me the right to go around and command wives who have husbands with less upper body strength than me (although I may have power over their husbands, I do not have the right to command that power).

Hopefully through these extreme examples the difference between someone who has power to command and someone who has the right to command is evident.

We must be educated. We must apply what we know. And when those who have physical power over us command us to do something contrary to the Constitution, per Romans 13 we have no choice but to disobey that illegal edict; per our allegiance to Christ we are required to resist anyone and any order that would attempt to usurp authority from that which we are required to obey – the Constitution.

Joshua S. Burnett
Virescit Vulnere Virtus

Why Christians cannot budge on gay marriage

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Let’s be honest, deep down inside many of us just want to adopt a policy of ‘tolerance’ towards gay marriage. At times, it seems as though we’re the bad guys who are just hatefully standing in the way of true love. Who are we to deny love, right? Can’t we just give a little pass on this whole gay-marriage thing? I mean, if Hollywood-that great beacon of marital bliss and fidelity-says it’s okay, can’t we just agree with those wise celebrities? Sarcasm aside, I’ve been struggling with this issue a lot lately and have many friends who share the same struggles, too. It seems as though I’ve witnessed two primary reactions.

  1. Resignation: No one likes to be the ‘bad guy’ and our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to anyone who disagrees with their beliefs. For example, a website called Upworthy has a propaganda video and the title is If This Video Makes You Uncomfortable Then You Make Me Uncomfortable. The point is that anyone who disagrees with the point of view of the video is just plain wrong and awkward and needs to get with the times. I truly think the ultimate force that causes people to ‘give in’ is good old fashioned peer pressure. Even as I write this now, I’m cringing at the comments I might receive from open-minded people who will spew hatred at me for my beliefs. Subscribing to a traditional, biblical view of marriage is becoming more and more passe. Which brings me to the second reaction many of us have.
  2. Anger: Others seem to become more defensive every time they discuss this issue. This is where I struggle on this issue. I don’t feel as though my rights are being respected or my point of view is being heard or even being accurately represented. Instead, I feel like I’m being bullied or pressured and I want to fight back. Why should I abandon my beliefs about marriage ? My beliefs span millenia and serve as the foundation upon which our civilization is built, your beliefs are about 5 minutes old and will obviously lead to polygamy, polyamory, and people marrying goats, pillows, pets, and even cartoon characters. Of course, a defensive posture will surely never win anyone over but only serve to deepen the divide over this issue. Surely there must be a better way…

Down in the weeds of this highly emotional issue, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s truly at stake. What if gay marriage isn’t a matter of equality but a matter of eternity?

To those who will disagree with me, before you start with, “well that’s what you believe but that isn’t what I believe and you shouldn’t force your beliefs on others,” let’s get one thing straight: neither of us believes we are wrong. No one holds beliefs that they think are false; that would be absurd. Everyone who supports legalizing gay marriage believes that they are right for doing so. But that’s what you believe and you shouldn’t force your beliefs on me. (See how easy it is to turn the tables?) Now, before you say, “well that doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t have the legal option to marry, just because you disagree with them” let’s get another thing straight: if you’re free to believe gay marriage should be legalized, them I’m free to believe that it should not. That’s the name of the game when it comes to diversity and tolerance; you have to accept that not everyone will agree with you, otherwise you are neither diverse nor tolerant.

Now to Christians, I say again, what if gay marriage isn’t a matter of equality but a matter of eternity? Our opposition to ‘gay marriage’ must be rooted in love for homosexuals. For far too long, society–and especially the Church–has ostracized homosexuality as though it is an especially horrible sin. This has been wrong and the sudden surge of acceptance of homosexual people has been a good thing. Some of us seem surprised to find out that *gasp* homosexuals are people, too! They are just as deserving of acceptance, friendship, and love as any heterosexual. However, this does not mean we should also accept homosexual behavior. I hope you see the distinction I’m drawing here: there is a difference between homosexual temptation and homosexual behavior; there is a difference between a person and their actions.

Now, regarding eternity… If there is a God, and if we will all one day face judgement, and if He has clearly defined any behavior as offensive to His character–be it lust, greed, pride, whatever–the most loving thing we can possibly do is warn anyone and everyone to repent and turn to God. That includes homosexuals, heterosexuals, democrats, republicans, blacks, whites, rich, poor, blue-collar, white-collar, men, and women. The most hateful thing we can possibly do is, in the name of open-minded tolerance, assure someone that their sinful behavior is acceptable. It is not, and to encourage any form of sinful behavior puts their blood on our hands. Rather than responding with resignation or anger, we need to respond with compassion and wisdom. We must compassionately pray for, talk to, and interact with anyone who struggles with any sin out of a desire to see them reconciled to their Creator.

One last thought to anyone who still disagrees with me: if I claim to be a Christian, and I claim that any behavior results in eternal damnation and separation from God, then what kind of Christian would I be if I did not oppose that behavior? If I believe that lust destroys marriages, perverts healthy relationships and dehumanizes us all, what kind of Christian would I be if I didn’t warn someone to stop looking at porn? If I believe that greed causes people to sell their souls in exchange for riches, what kind of Christian would I be if I didn’t encourage someone to start being generous. If I believe that resentment poisons the heart and prevents people from seeing God’s grace, what kind of Christian would I be if I didn’t encourage people to forgive? If I believe that homosexual activity is as sinful as heterosexual activity outside of marriage, what kind of Christian would I be if I didn’t urge homosexuals and heterosexuals to pursue purity in God’s eyes? What if I don’t view this as a matter of equality, but a matter of eternity?

How I Became Pro-Life

2012-12-10 20.04.55Although it will probably be a lot different, imagine a few people from various historic periods standing around a water cooler in Heaven.

One person lived in the Southern US during the early 1800’s.

Another person lived in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s.

The last person was born in 1985.

As the conversation drifts to the fact that there is no slavery in Heaven, the person who lived in the 1800’s gets very quiet. It’s clearly awkward for them because they never spoke out against slavery.

As the conversation drifts to the fact that Jews are not being murdered wholesale in Heaven, the person who lived in the 1930’s and 40’s in Nazi Germany gets very quiet. It’s clearly awkward for them because they never spoke out against the evils of the Third Reich.

Which topic would make the person born in 1985 grow awkwardly quiet? The Church is pretty vocal against many of the evils of our day: pornography, sexual immorality, global slavery, greed. And yet the Church seems to look the other way in other cases: divorce, gluttony, sloth, materialism.

However, I’m convinced that there is one topic that is largely ignored and yet is the worst human rights crisis in human history. Abortion.

I’ve been afraid to write about this for a long time. Afraid that I’d upset some people I love. Afraid that angry, loud people would ‘come after me’ on social media. But the truth is, abortion is a topic about which I can no longer remain silent. I thought the best place to start would be a simple explanation of how I became adamantly, unwaveringly, and uncompromisingly pro-life.

My journey towards becoming pro-life started, of all places, on the Alaskan Canadian Highway. With my pregnant wife sleeping in the passenger seat, I began listening to a sermon I heard about John leaping for joy inside the womb when he heard Mary’s voice, and I was convinced that, for Christians, there was no other position but for us to be resolutely pro-life. I had previously been an ‘agnostic’ towards abortion; I thought it was bad for Christians but permissible for non-Christians. I would have said “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (1 Cor. 5:12)” I thought that those who held a pro-abortion stance surely had a good reason for doing so, even if I disagreed with them. Almost like the fact that I bought a Honda but other people purchase Subarus, Fords, or Chevys. Surely, those in favor of abortion had good reasons for supporting it… or so I thought.

The next piece of the puzzle was Tumblr. Before I decided to share a quote on this blog every Friday, I had a Tumblr site where I would send them. One day, I posted a link to this video:

Looking back, I don’t really know what motivated me to share that video. I was still a little on the fence about abortion. However, that video was quickly reposted by some abortion advocates and I got to see ‘pro-choice logic’ first-hand. Most people just attacked John Piper (ad hominem), which did nothing to convince me that abortion should be legal. Others argued that a fetus can’t sustain itself, and thus could be aborted. But, if a fetus can’t sustain itself, why would someone need an abortion? In other words, the fetus can sustain itself in its environment, which is why women get abortions in the first place. Furthermore, even a toddler can’t sustain herself without her parents. Can we ‘abort’ toddlers? Another person argued that the fetus looked like a “f***ing shrimp,” so who cares? In short, because a fetus is unattractive it should be expendable. But, using that logic, does that mean that all ugly people should be killed? And who decides who is ugly? A few others appealed to women’s rights. But what about unborn women’s rights? All of the ‘pro-choice logic’ that I encountered was completely illogical. Most of it was self-refuting; none of it was convincing.

Then, on November 22, 2011, my wife went into labor a week early. I remember realizing that Kara was coming a week early. Since Oregon has no abortion restrictions on the books, they would—technically—have still allowed me to get an abortion up until my daughter’s due date. And yet, here she was, a week early. Completely, 100% viable, and yet still abort-able?! Nothing biological was going to change when she was born. In fact, nothing had changed enough to make Kara morally different at any point, whether inside the womb or out. Certainly there had not been enough change in her to morally justify killing her at any point. (Note: I’m not saying there were no biological changes, I’m saying there were none that were substantial enough to morally justify killing her.)

Why then is abortion legal? It certainly isn’t constitutional. I was deep in my thoughts when it came time for my wife to start pushing. Our daughter was born on November 23rd, early in the morning.

The more I learned about abortion, the worse it got:

  • There are about 3,300 abortions every day in American, or 2.3 every minute (do the math here).
  • In 2007 there were 1,210,000 abortions in America, making it the leading cause of death in our country, the next closest is heart disease at 597,689 deaths (source).
  • In 2008, there were 43.8 million abortions in the world. To give you a comparison, during WWII (when people were actively trying to kill one another), there were about 10 million deaths per year (see WWII Casualties and divide by 6, the number of years the war was officially fought). In other words, the abortion holocaust is 4 times more deadly than all the armies in the world during World War II.
  • Despite the rhetoric, only 0.006% of abortions in UK are performed to save the mother’s life (source).
  • In the US only 2% of abortions are because of rape/incest or the mother’s health (source).
  • Planned Parenthood targets blacks and Hispanics; 79% of their clinics are in minority neighborhoods (source).
  • In fact, when you combine natural deaths with abortion deaths, African Americans are dying in our country faster than they are being born (read more here).
  • Although abortion is touted as a women’s right, it was legalized by 7 unelected men, is primarily performed by men, and in many cases is pressured on women by men (see point 2).
  • Abortion is a world war on women: “In one recent study of clinics in Bombay, of 8,000 abortions, 7,997 were of female foetuses, leading to a move to ban ultra-sound for sexual differentiation. In one hospital 96% of mothers who were told they had a daughter aborted, while 100% with sons carried to term (source).” See also It’s a Girl: The Three Deadliest Words in the World.
  • Finally, pro-abortion logical inevitably leads to infanticide. In February 2012, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics called “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” with their first line of reasoning being that “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus…” (source). Their argument is that, since we kill children in the womb, why not kill them outside the womb?

I’m convinced that the greatest way to fight abortion is by educating people about it. (If you’re pro-choice and you don’t believe me, just go look at some pictures of abortion victims. There’s a reason they’re so disturbing.) With abortion taking over 40 million lives per year globally, it is the worst human rights crisis in human history. Our generation can no longer remain silent on this issue. We must speak out for those who have no voice. A society founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will lose its pursuit of happiness if it does not respect liberty. It will lose its liberty if it does not respect life. Life is the most fundamental right to any human. We cannot look the other way. We cannot remain silent.

Our sin is like the sin of Sodom. In Ezekiel 16, the Lord sends Ezekiel to rebuke Jerusalem and he says this: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. (Eze. 16:49-50).” The sin of Sodom was that they did not aid the poor and needy. There is no one more helpless—more poor and needy—than a child inside her mother’s womb. There are 3,300 poor and needy every day—2.3 every minute—who are stripped of their most fundament, most sacred, of human rights. We can change this. Indeed, we must. Pray, learn, and speak about this human rights crisis.

A Christian Perspective on Breastfeeding in Public

A Short Preface

Now, before you dismiss this as some man’s unqualified opinion, I ask you to hear me out. The fact that I am a man means that I do not have a dog in this fight—so to speak—and that I can offer an ‘outsider’ opinion. However, the principles that I hope to outline here will have broader application than just the area of breastfeeding. Another note I’d like to make is that, because this is not a topic specifically addressed in Scripture, I will be heavy on logic and light on Scripture references. With that said, here are some helpful thoughts about Christian women breastfeeding in public.

Breastfeeding is natural.

First and foremost, I want to affirm breastfeeding. Without question, it is the healthiest nutritional decision that can be made for little baby. (If you would like more information on the nutritional value of breast milk, try looking at some of these La Leche League Breastfeeding
Abstracts
.) While modern culture seems to think breastfeeding is somehow weird, this view is absurd. Out of the 7 billion humans on Earth, 100% have either been breastfed or have parents or grandparents who have been breastfed. My point is simply that breastfeeding is as natural as being born!

To be honest, I think there is something inherently beautiful in the life giving act of a mother breastfeeding her child. While I’m no expert, I think most mothers who have breastfed will confirm that—while breastfeeding can be very challenging and downright painful—there is an intimacy forged between mother and baby during that special time. To treat a breastfeeding mother as though she is doing something shameful or unnatural is absurd. In fact…

Every mother should have the right to breastfeed in public.

I fully affirm that every mother should have the right to breastfeed her child in public. However, this is where the controversy emerges. Should a woman be required to use a cover? Should a woman be allowed to breastfeed fully uncovered? Should public areas—such as libraries, court houses, parks—be required to provide areas where mothers may breastfeed privately? These are some tricky questions and one of the problems is that…

Our hyper-erotic, lust-addicted culture has sexualized breasts.

The truth is, open public breastfeeding is completely normal in many cultures. Moreover, in some cultures it’s normal for women to walk around topless when it gets warm outside. However, as Christians we have an obligation to respect the sensitivities of our culture. The fact that our society has sexualized breasts is not a justification to expose your breasts; it’s actually a very compelling reason for Christian women to cover their breasts. Do moms have a legal right to breastfeed without a cover? In some states, yes (here’s a list of Federal and State Breastfeeding Laws). However, there are times when, for the sake of the Gospel, Christians should limit their rights.

Honor your maker.

About a year ago, I wrote a series of posts about alcohol and my ultimate conclusion was that the highest priority for Christians is that we honor our Maker. In a hyper-erotic, lust-addicted culture that has sexualized breasts, I do not think it is wise for Christian women to expose their breasts, even when they are breastfeeding. Yes, breastfeeding is completely natural. Yes, they have the right to do so in public. However, any man who is willing to be honest with you will tell you that once he has seen your breasts, he will never be able to forget that image. Note that I said he will never be able to forget. We men are visual creatures and, once we’ve seen something like that, it is locked in our heads pretty much forever. Yes, there are many women who wear very immodest clothing, but that is not justification to join them. Instead, it is all the more reason for Christian women to strive to be different—to be holy. Instead of being a potential stumbling-block, this is an opportunity for Christian women to protect their brothers in Christ by intentionally choosing modesty for the sake of love (Rom. 14:13-19).

Be different: be modest.

For Christian women, I think the course of action that is wisest, most loving toward other men, and most God-honoring is to pursue modesty. I do think women can breastfeed in public and I would urge Christian women to do so with a cover. Yes, this is inconvenient. Yes, this is a lot of extra work. My wife and her friends say breastfeeding in public is a huge challenge. They say their babies can’t stand being under a blanket. They say their babies flail around and end up accidentally pulling the cover aside anyway. They say it is a lot of extra work and can be a real pain. However, they believe that no matter the inconvenience, it is the Christian mother’s responsibility to find a way to be modest. I agree. I think using a cover is the wisest, most loving course of action. Although the Bible never directly addresses this topic, Paul says that Christian women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty, self-control, and the good works that are proper for women who profess godliness (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Even though it is becoming more culturally acceptable to breastfeed uncovered, Christians are commanded not to conform to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:1-2) and I think modesty is one of the biggest areas where Christian women can be non-conformists. That’s right, be a rebel! Is modesty worth preserving in a culture gone immodest? If it is, then it will come at a price.

Ultimately, my aim here is to simultaneously affirm the beauty and normalcy of breastfeeding while encouraging Christian women to honor God and love their brothers by pursuing modesty. Breastfeeding is a good thing; so is modesty. Both are worth the sacrifice. I realize this is a controversial topic, and I encourage all Christian women everywhere to pray over this issue and conduct themselves in such a way as to be completely blameless.

Are You Sure You Want God to Completely Eradicate Evil?

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” – Epicurus

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Great Britain: Bantam Press, 2006), 31.

One of the reasons I’m a Christian is because it is the best, most coherent explanation of life on this world. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best. When I look at modern atheistic beliefs I notice some contradictions that make it, as a worldview, illogical and in this post I’d like to look at one: the problem of evil. On one hand, atheists will point to evil in the world around us as proof that God does not exist (or if He does, then He is clearly ‘malevolent’ for allowing such evil). On the other hand, they’ll point to instances in the Old Testament, such as the Flood or Sodom and Gomorrah, where God actively opposed evil and say that God is not a loving god, but clearly a bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser. This means that atheists believe that God is bad for not stopping evil yet God is bad when He does stop evil. Or, to break it down a little differently:

  • Evil exists unstopped, therefore God is bad.
  • God stops evil, therefore God is bad.

Or, to phrase it yet another way:

  • “God is evil for allowing sin.”
  • “God is evil for stopping sin.”

This is clearly a contradiction. You cannot bemoan both the fact that God has not rid the world of evil and the fact that God killed evil people at any time in human history. This is a logical inconsistency.

So which is it? Would you rather God restrains His power to stop evil, or God unleashes His wrath and purges the world of evil?

Now, before you answer that anyone would obviously want God to stop evil, give it some thought. The way I phrased that—God unleashes His wrath and purges the world of evil—means that ridding the world of evil would not be pretty.

Evil is much like a cancer; it contaminates and perverts everything it touches. Our entire world is fallen, corrupted, and tarnished: every person, family, community, city, state, country, culture, and continent. No one and nothing has escaped the cosmic consequences of The Fall. Like sand in the desert, evil is everywhere and, try as we might and no matter how much we want to hide it, we cannot cleanse evil from this world. Only God could rid the desert of sand. Only God has the power to rid the planet of evil.

So, the obvious question becomes: what would it take for God to stop evil? Well, to continue the cancer analogy, how do we get rid of cancer? We cut it out and destroy it. How could God get rid of evil? Could He flick a switch and rid the world of evil? Not likely. You see, evil is so rampant in our world that the only way for God to forever rid the world of evil is by cleansing it with the utter destruction of every man, woman, and child on the surface of the planet. Consider how God stopped evil during the Flood (Gen. 7:21-23) or in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25). Are you sure you want God to stop evil? Then perhaps you are evil.

Perhaps some will still ask “then whence cometh evil?” The problem is, in light of the reality that God does oppose evil and that He will stop evil, this is an ironically self-condemning question. Anyone who asks “then whence cometh evil” needs to look in the mirror and realize that evil isn’t ‘out there.’ Instead, evil comes from within (Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19-20; Mark 7:21-23). We are the source of evil, not God. God tolerates our rebellion for now out of love and patience for us because He has a plan.

Instead of instantly purging the world of evil, God is in the process of reconciling all things to Himself through Christ (Colossians 1:19-20). God is on a rescue mission to save those who are His enemies by calling them to repentance and salvation. It is a gradual cleansing process that takes time and requires that evil be allowed to exist for now. So, could God stop evil? Yes, but there wouldn’t be anyone around to see what was left.

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:3-5, emphasis added

 

Putting on the Disguise

“They’ll need to see your face so they can see there’s no evil in it… To see the gentleness an decency in you… And know that they have nothing to fear. The mask– The mask is what you’ll have to wear the rest of the time.”

– Martha Kent, giving Clark his cape in Superman Earth One Volume 1.

Among superheroes, Superman has historically been a bit unique. Most superheroes—Spiderman, Batman, the Power Rangers—conceal who they really are when they are ‘on duty.’ Spiderman is just an alter ego to hide Peter Parker; Batman is just a symbol that serves to conceal Bruce Wayne; the Power Rangers are really high school kids. Superman, on the other hand, really is Superman. He puts on glasses, acts clumsy, and walks with poor posture to conceal his true identity. Clark Kent is the disguise; Superman is the reality. In recent years, it seems like a lot of superheroes have revealed their identity, but since his inception, Superman has been unique in this regard.

This reminds me of Someone…

…though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:6-7)

Jesus came as Clark Kent. Jesus was born in the likeness of weak men. He came not as a King, but as a servant. Is it any wonder we rejected Him? Is it any wonder we just didn’t seem to understand who He was? When Jesus came into this world, He modeled humility. But Jesus is coming back.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev. 19:11-16).

When Jesus took the form of a lowly servant and washed the feet of His disciples, He was showing us how we are supposed to act; he was modeling our real identity. But He wasn’t showing us the full scope of His identity. Jesus was born as Clark Kent, but He shall return as Superman.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)

¡Mas!

During the holiday season, most retail locations play festive music to fill shoppers with the holiday spirit and perhaps encourage them to add a few more items to their shopping cart. Home Depot is no exception but they do something that I hadn’t heard before. For the first half of the holiday season, they play older, more traditional songs (none newer than probably 1980) and then during the second half they play newer, more modern songs (most within the last 5-10 years).

I noticed something troubling about the mix of those two different generations of holiday songs. The older songs had a mix of about 50/50 between Christmas songs and holiday songs. By Christmas songs I mean tune such as:

  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • Away in a Manger
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Joy to the World
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
  • O Holy Night
  • Silent Night
  • The First Noel

By holiday songs, I’m referring to songs such as:

  • Baby, It’s Cold Outside
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
  • Santa Baby
  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Winter Wonderland

The difference, in case you hadn’t noticed already, is that the first list consists of Christmas songs whereas the second list contains secular songs about Santa, Frosty, Rudolf, and gifts under the Christmas tree.

What I found disturbing, and why I’m writing this post, is that the second wave of seasonal songs—the ones mostly produced within the last decade—consisted overwhelmingly of holiday songs. (In fact, I don’t remember hearing a single Christmas song in the entire bunch!) As I listened to the words of the songs, I realized that, speaking very broadly, they can almost all be summarized in two categories:

Santa, bring me a sweetheart’:

Or ‘Winter is a wonderful season‘:

Another disturbing clue I noticed is that, out of the hundreds of holiday decorations we sold, I didn’t see a single nativity scene. Instead, I saw 8-ft tall inflatable Santas, plastic snowmen, stuffed moose, stockings with puppies that sing while their mechanical ears flap, and other secular holiday paraphernalia.

The most disturbing thing I saw was a Santa, dressed in camouflage, who sings “Proud To Be An American.” Somehow, it almost seems as though we’re making patriotism synonymous with the Holiday Spirit. When I originally saw this, I thought “who in their right mind would buy this?”

We sold out of them!

The most ironic decoration I saw was a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree:

To appreciate this, you have to remember that A Charlie Brown Christmas is about rejecting the materialistic, meaningless sham that this holiday has become and rediscovering the true meaning of Christmas. But now we sell Charlie Brown Christmas Trees!!

So what am I getting at? My point is simple: we have subtracted Christ from Christmas.

Christmas – Christ = Mas.

Mas, ironically, is the Spanish word for “more.” My point is that when we remove Christ from Christmas, this holiday season becomes a shallow, materialistic pursuit for more, more, more. ¡Mas! ¡Mas! ¡Mas! How else do you explain the fact that we—Americans, one of the most affluent civilizations in human history who have all our needs met—spent record numbers of money this Black Friday despite the fact that median household income has fallen 4 years in a row, 85% of middle-class people say it’s tougher now than a decade ago to maintain their living standards, 77% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time, and 40% of Americans have $500 or less in personal savings?

It’s insane! We’re spending more, earning less, going deeper into debt, and saving next to nothing. But, if Christmas is not about the incarnation—about the Savior coming down to earth as an infant—then we have to fill that void with something, don’t we? And what makes us happier than spending a couple hundred dollars on gifts?

It saddens me to see what we, as a society, are doing to Christmas. Even more so, it saddens me to see this tendency within my own heart. My love language is gifts; I love presents! I love receiving gifts but, if memory serves me correctly, it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). So, I turn to you, the reader, and ask: What can we do to recover and preserve the true meaning of Christmas?

Me. Me. Me!

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3 NIV84)

For the modern American, there are few words that are more impossible to understand in their full depth and more unlikely to be applied in their full scope than the words “put others first.” (Although, “slower traffic keep right” is a close second; but doesn’t that require thinking of others?) From a young age, we are taught that we have to look out for number one in this dog-eat-dog world. Our entire culture encourages a mentality of self-centeredness and selfishness. These ideas are foreign to us: loving our neighbors; doing unto others as we would have them do unto us; thinking of others as more important than us. But they are the core of who God is slowly turning us into.

I pray that, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, I may grow in this area every day.

Some Post-Election Day Thoughts

In a previous post, I explained why I absolutely refused to vote for Obama or Romney. Today is a brand new day and we have the same old president but, after watching and reading many Christians as they discussed this election, I’d like to explore two attitudes I found pervasive and particularly disturbing. First, most of the Christians I talked to were thinking like Republicans, not Christians. And second, fear seemed to be a greater motivator than faith.

Thinking like Republicans, not Christians
I can’t tell you how many Christians were convinced that our only option—nay, our only hope!—was to vote for Mitt Romney because…well… he was the Republican candidate. Did Christians have no other possible course of action? Based on what I’ve heard and read, we actually don’t! It sounded to me like our only hope hinged on the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election!

Equally disturbing was the mentality that the last thing we could possibly do was vote for a third party candidate. That might require us to maintain our integrity and do something unpopular and likely to fail! Instead, our only option was to capitulate to the slightly better of two undesirable choices—one a liar, the other a deceiver—for the sake of political expediency.

In short, our goal wasn’t to support the best, most desirable candidate; our goal was simply to knock Obama out of the White House. We weren’t thinking about the Kingdom of God and we certainly weren’t concerned with maintaining our integrity, we were merely concerned about the good ol’ USA.

The truth is, God has not called us to win elections in His great Name; God has called us to transform our culture and that begins in our neighborhoods not the courtrooms. Our faith is to be placed in Christ’s atoning work on our behalf, not the legislative performance of our elected officials. Do you think God cares that abortion is legal or that abortion happens? Do you think God cares that our system is corrupt and greedy or that our hearts are corrupt and greedy? My point is, instead of trying to change the laws of the land, we need to try and change the hearts of ourselves and our neighbors. But what fueled this perception?

Operating from fear, not faith.
The reason we had no choice is because, let’s face it, we are all afraid of Obama—especially because he no longer has to worry about being re-elected and has nothing to lose. (And if Obama doesn’t worry you, then I don’t think you pay very much attention.) None of the Christians I heard or read were reasoning from a place of faith in God. They were arguing from fear of Obama. It wasn’t “in God we trust,” it was “in Obama we fear.”

I never heard anyone say, “I have approached the throne of God with this issue and feel compelled to vote for Romney.” It was more like, “Well, the last thing we want is 4 more years of Obama” or even, “Remember folks, ABO: Anybody but Obama!” We were like Peter when he tried to walk on water (Matthew 14:29-31). We took our eyes off Christ and began to look at the storm and the crashing waves. We got scared. But I don’t think it has to be this way.

Two Questions
Every time I watch a documentary with lions, hyenas, or other predators, I always wonder what would happen if the bison (or zebras or gazelles or whatever) stood their ground or, better yet, stampeded the predators. While it’s certainly likely that some of the bisons would be injured or die, it seems even more likely that the lions would realize they were outnumbered 50-to-1 and retreat. There are entire food chains that are perpetuated by fear and the perception of helplessness. In the same way, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Christians stood their ground or—*gasp*—actually unified.
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So, I challenge all three of the people who will read this to ask themselves two questions when engaging in politics. First, will you maintain your integrity or will you compromise? I challenge you, instead of bending to the pressures of the world around us, to stand firm in your convictions and vote for the candidate you actually believe will be best for our nation. Second, will you walk in faith or fear? Christ calls us sheep; let’s put our faith in the Good Shepherd and stick together. Let’s stand up to the wolves because we trust in our Shepherd’s ability to protect us. And finally, let’s pray for those who have been elected. Let’s pray that God will guide their heart of our president and all our elected officials.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord ; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)