An Exercise in Picking & Choosing What to Read AND Believe
This post and this post have engendered some spirited discussion between a poster named Clare Flourish, a Christian who defends the homosexual lifestyle as a God-given gift, and me, who follows what the Bible says on the matter.
Clare’s follow up post is a veritable case study on how to read into things what you want to be there, instead of what is actually there. She does that to both my words and the words of the Bible. I suppose if she’s lax with Scripture reading, I should expect no better given that Scripture contains the words of God himself while I am just a man with no special revelation.
[Cory] wants to save me from that Hell to which all unrepentant gay people will inevitably go after death. I want to save him from hell now, from the idea that humanity is naturally wicked. 
Really? That’s interesting. If you read my comment, I said this:
Finally, gay people are no more damned than any of us, for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But we are also urged to live in a manner worthy of the calling to which we are called, which gay people who are living in homosexual relationships are NOT.
Does that mean you’re going to hell? Well, I wouldn’t say that. Probably not. It means that you have a sin in your life and that must be dealt with. It doesn’t mean God loves you less; he did, after all, call you to be a Christian.
You will have to deal with this in your own time and in your own way. I see you’ve given this issue a lot of thought, and I applaud that. However, I think you’ve come to the wrong conclusions and I’m not afraid to say that you have. Just as you are not afraid to say that I’ve come to the wrong conclusions. (emphasis added) 
So I’m not trying to save Clare from any hell, future or otherwise. What I’m trying to do is be her Christian brother and point her away from sin that is impeding her relationship with the Lord. I don’t think she’s going to hell and I can’t save her from a place she’s not going. I think she has a sin that needs to be eliminated.
As to the idea that humanity is naturally wicked, well that’s pretty much the unanimous teaching of Scripture and of history. I’ve already covered that elsewhere, so I’m not going to dive into it now. Read the rest of this entry
Beatitues, part 8: Blessed are Those Persecuted for Righteousness
Ultimately, what do the Beatitudes celebrate as virtues?
Poor in spirit. Mourning. Meekness. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Showing mercy. Pureness of heart. Making peace. Things not seen by our secular world as virtuous.
But the final Beatitude is the kicker.
I don’t know how the prosperity gospel ever came to be. Nor do I know how asinine arguments like this one from God is Imaginary could ever capture the imaginations of serious Bible readers.
Because Jesus said:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 5:10-12)
This one of many times the theme of persecution is introduced into the Bible. In fact, one Bible teacher insists that there is at least one reference in all sixty-six books of the Bible to suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom.
Sorry, Marshall Brain. That means that we aren’t going to end suffering and death with prayer. Your argument fails.
Sorry, Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes and Ed Young and Kenneth Copeland and others who have bought your lie. God’s plan includes suffering.
In fact, to suffer is the ultimate virtue. Suffering imitates all of the great Old Testament prophets. When we are ridiculed for preaching God’s word, the word of God through Christ is confirmed to us. Christ said we’d suffer on his account.
We do. Look at the issues that set conservative Christians apart from the secular world. Read the rest of this entry
Knowing How to Live Righteously
Paul made the following forceful statement about knowing God:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:19-20, emphasis added)
In other words, we know God is there, and his attributes are revealed to us by God and perceived in all that he has made. There is no excuse for being an atheist.
How clear are these attributes? How clear is God’s plan for living a righteous life? Flipping back to Genesis, I was somewhat intrigued by the story of Cain and Abel.
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. (Gen 4:2-5)
The sacrificial system wasn’t in place yet. That wouldn’t be codified for over 1000 years. God accepts the offering that Abel gives, but not the one that Cain gives. This angers Cain (v. 5). God, however, offers interesting consolation:
Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Gen 4:6-7)
God is indicating that it isn’t about the sacrifice, it’s about doing well and ruling sin rather than letting sin rule you. It’s not about the religious offering. It’s about freedom from sin.
What happens next? Does Cain heed God’s advice? Does he live a godly life worthy of acceptance? Nope–Cain kills Abel in a jealous rage. He’s upset that God accepted his brother’s sacrifice and not his.
Cain is told by God to live virtuously. God is trying to explain that it isn’t about the sacrifice at all. It’s about living free of sin in the first place.
But there’s something deeper here. Cain was simply told to live in a worthy manner, without being given any rules or regulations. The Law, which codifies living in a worthy manner, was centuries away from being written down by Moses. This indicates that Cain already knows how to live virtuously!
And so, I believe, do we. It’s just that we don’t. And therein lies the problem, which Paul discusses in Romans 7:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (vv. 14-25)