An Arminian Analysis of Acts 13:48 as Covenant Transfer

acts 2Acts 13:48 is considered by many to be one of the strongest verses in defense of Calvinism’s view of individual election. We read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

At first glance it does appear to present quite the challenge to the widely held and thoroughly biblical corporate view of divine election. However a few considerations pulled from both context and grammar will demonstrate how this passage poses no serious threat to the corporate view of election, and in fact dovetails nicely with classical Arminian teaching that no sinner comes to faith independent of the gracious work of God. For Arminian theology is founded on the unalterable conviction that the Spirit of God continuously seeks to break down walls of resistance, open hearts and draw sinners unto divine love.

To commence lets first take note of the fact that the Greek word translated “appointed” comes from the Greek root of the verb tasso. Some Arminian scholars point out that tasso can be interpreted both in the passive voice or the middle voice. If interpreted in the passive voice the subject would be seen as entering a state in response to some external initiative or cause. If interpreted in the middle voice the subject would be entering a state or condition in response to one’s own disposition or inclination or initiative.

Concerning Acts 13:48 both interpretations of tasso are grammatically possible. To be fair Luke uses tasso in a few other instances in his epistle and in each case the middle voice is not the best interpretation (e.g. Acts 15:2, 22:10, 28:23). However this fact alone does not rule out the possibility of the middle voice in Acts 13:48. Moreover it must be understood that Luke’s usage of tasso elsewhere in his epistle has absolutely no connotation whatsoever of being a timeless decree or an act of eternal foreordination on the part of God before the creation of the world (as John Wesley rightly pointed out years ago). We will explore this key point more below since it is the unfounded presupposition Calvinists force upon the text.

In addition not a single usage of tasso in Acts identifies God as being the agent performing the action. In fact of all the instances where tasso is seen throughout the entire N.T. only one explicitly identifies God as being the actor of tasso (e.g. Rom. 13:1), and even in that case the verse is completely unrelated to salvation and simply deals with God setting or establishing authorities in place.

The verb tasso can have various nuances depending on the context surrounding its use. A perusal through numerous Greek lexicons will generally show it means, “to arrange or set in an orderly manner,” “to assign, to ordain, to appoint or dispose to a certain place or position.” Tasso is used 8 times in the New Testament and is translated with the basic meaning of “to appoint,” “to designate a place,” “to appoint or designate that something be done,” “to appoint a day for something to be done,” or “to appoint or set in order the powers that rule the world.” By far the majority of tasso passages are in the passive voice, but not all. In 1 Corinthians 16:15 we find the household of Stephanus “appointing their services” or “setting themselves” in service to saints in the church and the verb tasso is translated in the middle voice as meaning “devoted themselves.” In that sense upon seeing the needs of the saints the household of Stephanus positioned or arranged themselves accordingly to serve the interests of the saints rather than themselves.

Calvinists opt to argue that Luke’s usage of tasso should be interpreted in the passive voice thereby retaining the idea of an external cause acting on the subject to bring about a result—in this case belief. Therefore the passage should be read as “all those who were appointed to eternal life believed.” To be sure most translations bear out the passive voice and render tasso as “appointed” or “ordained.” However, not satisfied with this, Calvinists then go outside the text to gather up assumptions not explicit in the passage and then return to the text “arms laden” with presuppositions that lead them to argue that the passive voice of tasso must mean that God eternally elected or predestined before the creation of the world certain individuals to eternal life and the result of that predestination or foreordination is that those individuals believed.

We will address this shortly but suffice it to say at this juncture that some Arminians object to this interpretation and suggest that another possible interpretation can be drawn out by translating tasso in the middle voice. In this sense the passage would imply “all those who set their lives in accordance to the gospel of eternal life believed” or “all those who were devoted to eternal life believed.”

The difference in meaning is quite obvious. If interpreted in the middle voice the implication is that the hearers of Paul’s message set in order their own hearts in response to the message preached. Yet even in this sense no faithful Arminian worth his salt would ever suggest the heart of sinner can be set in order or be internally disposed and devoted to eternal life independent of the gracious Spirit of God convicting and drawing that heart out of darkness and to the light of life.

While the argument of some Arminians scholars for the middle voice is worthy of great consideration, it is difficult—if not impossible— to make a case that can completely silence the considerations of those who view the passive voice to be the most reasonable and plausible interpretation. Therefore it should be asked, is there a third alternative solution that retains the traditional translation of tasso in the passive voice and yet avoids the interpretive conclusion that Calvinists seek to argue for—that being that the passage teaches an eternal, timeless decree of election that is the direct cause for the belief of individuals?

I believe there is such an alternative—in fact there are two!

The rationale for interpreting tasso in the passive voice is to retain the idea that Paul’s hearers are entering a state in response to some external initiative or cause. Calvinists seek to qualify that external cause to be a divine appointment on the part of God. The text does not explicitly state this and so it is pure speculation on the Calvinist to insist upon it. However we will soon see that even a divine appointment to eternal life can be affirmed without consenting to the further conjecture that such a divine setting or appointment is rooted in a timeless, hidden decree of God before the foundation of the world.

But first let’s deal with how tasso can be interpreted in the passive voice without having to speculate on whether or not God is the external cause of tasso. It is perfectly reasonable to conclude that the external cause of tasso upon the hearers is the message of the gospel itself! Jesus often prefaced his deeper messages with the remark, “He who has ears let him hear” (Mt. 11:15). We are told in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” so it should be no surprise to discover that the gospel message preached can be said to set lives in order (tasso) which were previously in disorder and in disarray. Understood in this light, the passage can be interpreted as follows: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many of those who heard and were set in order by the things they heard concerning eternal life believed.”

Yet perhaps the Calvinist is not content with only interpreting tasso in the passive voice, but also sees an inference to a divine appointing or divine setting to eternal life concerning Paul’s hearers. This leads us to our second, possible interpretation.

Much of the heat of argument generated over Acts 13:48 dissipates when we realize that tasso can: (1) be interpreted in the passive voice as being a divine setting or appointment to eternal life, (2) while at the same time compliment the Arminian views on God’s grace in salvation and retaining corporate election!

For starters it is imperative to point out that Calvinists substantially err in seeking to argue that tasso’s passive voice translation of “appointed, ordained or destined” must refer to God’s eternal decree of individual election before time began. By itself tasso has nothing whatsoever to do with a timeless foreordination or pre-temporal determinism. Not a single scriptural usage of tasso can be explicitly called in support of viewing tasso in this way—not one! The reason is simple. If the N.T. authors and particularly Luke in Acts 13:48 had meant to denote an eternal decree of foreordination, election or of a choice before time they could have easily said so with a number of words at their disposal to mean exactly that. In fact Luke previously enlisted two words, orizo and proorizo, in Acts to clearly speak of something that is predestined or foreordained in its appointment—namely the redemptive work of the Son (Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28).

If orizo and proorizo are Luke’s common and preferred words to denote eternal predestination or foreordination, why would he then turn around and use tasso in Acts 13:48—a word which is never used in scripture to denote a timeless decree of foreordination? Apparently Luke does not want us to infer a divine, eternal decree of election—yet this is exactly what Calvinists unfortunately do!

Therefore, to be sure, even by retaining the passive voice of tasso as referring to those appointed to eternal life by God, there is no reason we should then infer that such an appointment is a pre-temporal, predestinating or foreordained decree of election on the part of God. Rather the sense of tasso is always suggestive of a temporal arrangement, or a time-bound, worldly ordering or appointment of events and actions which were, at that particular time, under consideration.

Most translations opt for translating tasso simply as “appointed” but some opt for “ordain.” Yet it bears repeating even in this sense translating tasso as “ordained” need not mean “fore-ordained in eternity past” any more than “appointed” means “pre-appointed before the world began.” Once again if Luke had wanted to signify a pre-deterministic foreordination as his intended meaning he easily could have done so by choosing a verb form that meant exactly that.

What we can infer from the passage is that their setting or appointment to eternal life, which did in fact lead to their subsequent belief, was itself a work of divine grace leading and establishing their hearts in faith. Truth be told such an understanding of the role of grace in salvation is a core feature of the Arminian perspective! This may come as a surprise to some given that there are so many misinformed assessments and misrepresentations of Arminianism that run amuck in Calvinist circles. This ignorance is a direct result of both popular and scholarly level Calvinists refusing to engage genuine, Arminian scholars on their own turf and in their words. Arminians have no bones to pick with Calvinists over the need for divine grace to initiate saving faith and ultimately open a sinner’s heart to the gospel. Where we disagree is the Calvinist insistence that divine grace cannot be resisted or rejected. Arminians believe such a grace would be coercive in nature and thus no grace at all.

Greg Boyd, though he ascribes to an open view of the future, is thoroughly Arminian in his soteriology and offers a helpful summary on the role of grace in Acts 13:48 and rightly notes the Calvinist error in imposing on the text an outside, preconceived assumption of election:

Note that the text simply says that “as many as were destined [Boyd undoubtedly opts to say “destined” to give the Calvinist the full weight of the argument before demonstrating how the Arminian view remains sound] for eternal life became believers.” Other than suggesting it was prior to their believing, the verse does not tell us when these people were destined. Nor does it suggest that they were destined simply because God unconditionally chose them. Calvinists assume that this destiny was given to the elect before the world began by sheer divine fiat, but the text simply does not say this. To be sure, there are several other texts which do say that we were predestined before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4–5; 2 Tim. 1:9) but the “we” of these verses is a corporate “we.” These verses do not support individual election to salvation.

The text only requires us to believe that the Spirit of God had been at work preparing the hearts of all who did not resist him to accept the Gospel when they heard it. God knows our heart before we express it through our words or through our decisions (Ps. 139:2–4). On this basis the Lord could assure Paul before his missionary endeavor at Corinth that “there are many in this city who are my people” (viz. whose hearts have been opened and who will therefore believe your message) (Acts 18:10).

So too, Lydia listened intently to Paul’s Gospel because the Lord had already “opened her heart” (Acts 16:14). Those Gentiles who did not resist the Spirit’s work in their life were “ripe” for the message of Paul and Barnabas.”[1]

It should be no wonder to discover that our heavenly Father “looks to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose hearts are blameless toward Him” (2 Chron. 16:9) so that he might appoint them to eternal life by opening their heart, as with Lydia, to receive the Good News. Apparently some of the “God fearing Gentiles” (Acts 17:17) in Corinth had not resisted the Spirit’s prior visitations upon their lives and thus were already appointed to eternal life by the time Paul and Barnabas preached to them the Good News which they no doubt received with joyful hearts.

Again Boyd astutely writes,

Scripture teaches us that prior to a person’s conscious decision to put their faith in Jesus Christ, the Father is “drawing” them and the Holy Spirit is working on them to break down walls of resistance and make the soil of their soul fertile (John 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 12:3). This is why the Lord could tell Paul, “there are many in this city (Corinth) who are my people” (Acts 18:10), though Paul had not yet preached there and there were as yet no believers… Now, scripture makes it clear that this sovereign work of God can be resisted, for we are free agents even when the God of the universe is knocking on our hearts (Isa. 63:10; Acts 7:51; Heb. 3:8, 15; 4:7, cf. Eph. 4:30). When we persist in our rebellion, our eyes remain blind and our hearts remain dark (2 Cor. 4:4–6). We will not accept the truth of the Gospel. But when our resistance is broken down, our destiny to become believers is settled…

In my opinion, this is also how we ought to interpret Jesus’ words when he tells certain Jews, “you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice…and they follow me” (John 10:26–27). Jesus isn’t implying that God unilaterally decides who will and will not be sheep, as Calvinists teach. And he certainly isn’t suggesting that this matter was decided before any of these people were born. Jesus’ words only imply that at the time of his speaking some people were sheep and therefore believed while others were not and therefore did not believe. We create impossible problems for ourselves—such as how God can love all and want all to be saved while predestining many to hell—when we go beyond what Scripture teaches…

In sum, we see that this verse teaches that God’s move toward us always precedes our move toward him, as in Corinth, and as with Lydia. God had ahead of time prepared the hearts of a number of Gentiles in Antioch to receive the Gospel when Paul and Barnabas preached it. But this verse does not suggest that God eternally predestines… who will and will not believe in him.”[2]

There is an additional contextual feature to be found in the text that compliments Boyd’s highlighting of the fact that before Paul and Barnabas even preached the gospel, the Lord had individuals in view whose hearts were open and ready to receive the gospel in faith. We find this contextual clue a few verses earlier in vs. 43. We read, “When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.”

These “devout converts to Judaism” were of course Gentiles and the fact that they are spoken of as being “devout” signifies that a genuine conversion to the Abrahamic faith had taken place prior to Paul and Barnabas’s arrival! For this reason Paul encourages them to “continue in the grace of God” (vs. 43).

In other words these devout, Gentile converts to the faith of Abraham were already in a sense “on their way” or appointed and/or ordained to the eternal truth of God by virtue of their prior orientation to the grace of God under an O.T. covenantal relationship with God. They started with grace in the old covenant and Paul wants to see them continue in grace in the new covenant! The passage says that immediately the next day the whole city turned out to hear the preaching of Paul and Barnabas. The Gentile “devout converts” of vs. 43 are undoubtedly the same Gentiles in vs. 48 who are said to be those who were appointed to eternal life and thus believed.

That changes everything!

It is no stretch to say that the Spirit of the Lord’s grace had been preparing the soil of their heart through their devout hunger to know God in an O.T. covenantal paradigm. In this sense their being “appointed to eternal life” should not be viewed as some theological aside related to a timeless, unconditional, selective decree of election. Rather, it is only through engaging the passage in the context of the overall narrative that Luke is telling that we come to understand something of great import. That is, their appointment to eternal life is the natural extension of a spiritual awakening that grace had already performed for them through their covenantal status as a spiritual descendent of Abraham in view of their commitment to the true faith of Abraham!

Understanding Acts 13:48 in this way allows us to retain the passive translation of tasso without going further than what the text says by assuming some sort of timeless foreordination of election. It also avoids the misgivings some have in opting for the middle voice and assuming that the hearers of Paul’s message set themselves or were devoted and disposed to eternal life within themselves. Most importantly it retains the idea that their appointment to eternal life was due to an external cause—namely the grace of God that established them formerly in the Old Covenant and was now carrying them through to its fulfillment in Christ in the New Covenant.

It is no overreaching assertion to state that at the time of Christ’s advent all those who were in true, faith-binding covenant with the God of Abraham were set, appointed, destined for eternal life. The Gentiles “who rejoiced” (vs. 48) that the door of salvation was open to them were already in a Judaic covenant of faith with the God of Abraham, and that served as the basis for their subsequent appointment leading to a full faith in the God of Abraham. They were converts to the God of Abraham before they even heard Paul preach, and yet Paul sought to urge them to lay hold of grace and go one step further into full conversion. This is beyond doubt what Paul hoped for when he “urged them to continue in the grace of God” the very day prior to their final conversion to Christ.

Lastly, there is no sound reason to assume that Paul thinks that grace is compulsory, irresistible and “always gets its man.” Otherwise he would not have urged them to do their part in partnering with God by “continuing in the grace of God (vs. 43).” Likewise we should not read into the text some preconceived notion that God did not genuinely desire others to come to life. Rather than describing a God who unconditionally predestines individuals to be excluded from eternal life, Luke says quite the opposite. He places the responsibility square at the feet of those who rejected the word of God for themselves. Couched between Acts 13:43 and 47 we find these telling passages:

“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”

Far from teaching an individual, eternal decree of election, that arbitrarily selects some for eternal life while banishing others, Acts 13:43-48 is revealing the beauty and faithfulness of God’s covenant transfer. Those who had rightly responded in faith and trust to God’s grace in the old covenant, and were thereby appointed to eternal life on that basis, would not be forgotten or left behind. Just as they heard and recognized the voice of their Good Shepherd in the old covenant they would recognize that same voice coming through the message of the new coveant and thus be graciously shephered into God’s new covenant through their continued belief. Moreover Acts 13:43-48 teaches that grace always reaches out through the word of God to order our lives and establish us on a path leading to eternal life. But when the word of God is rejected and his grace spurned such individuals consequently judge themselves as “unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46).

 

[1] http://www.gregboyd.org/?s=Acts+13%3A48

[2] http://www.gregboyd.org/?s=Acts+13%3A48

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The March for Women: When Diversity Demands Conformity

I was really impressed by the large turnout of women around the world marching to be heard yesterday. Truly amazing. Yet at the same time I was dismayed at the volume level given to abortion and some of those chosen in D.C. to give voice to the general cry of women everywhere that they are worthy of every honor and dignity and refuse to be subject to the demeaning, callous objectification of their gender by men of power. I have no sympathy for any man reaping some bad press over what he has long sown. Yet with humility and the grace of God leopards can change their spots–so we can hope men of all color and creed will be humbled by this march, take a serious look at their soul and repent.

But Madonna… Seriously? God help her… I don’t think there is a woman on planet earth that has done more harm to the dignity of women or worked harder to objectify women and reduce them down to their sexual parts in the eyes of impressionable, young boys–who unfortunately later grow up to become men well trained in verse and vision through our degrading, “bottom-feeding” entertainment industry. Because it enriches their personal, financial coffers many “role-model” entertainers, like Beyonce who participate in shoveling smutty garbage before the eyes of children, refuse to acknowledge the corrosive, psychological effect thousands of hours of sexually objectifying women has on the soul of a young boy. There couldn’t possibly be a connection between how women are sexually portrayed in music and T.V. and how women are viewed and valued in the real world…could there? Of course not… How silly of me to think the human soul is a sponge. I’m sure all that smut that gets splashed all over middle schoolers in our day is like water off a duck’s back.

Personally I think it is the height of hypocrisy to quibble about the very thing you are bankrolling. Lastly I read numerous reports about pro-life women being turned away in droves and being refused entrance in different marches–their banners about being both pro-life and pro-women were castigated, ridiculed and rejected. Now just think about that. A movement that largely wants to pride itself on diversity is demanding conformity on its first day!

So when a famous woman gets up on stage and says it is time for ALL women to stand up and be counted, it should be understood that conservative, pro-life women simply don’t count. Of course they do! And any pro-female movement that truly wants to effect real change in this world and be more than a passing protest with pink hats better make room for them. Unjustifiable violence against women is a huge problem and it is happening on a routine basis around the globe. Here in Cambodia roughly 1 out of 5 men admit to having raped a woman and Khmer husbands cheating on their wives is the accepted, social norm. Mothers and daughters are abused and abandoned daily. I hope one day to see such crowds march in support of repressed, suffering women in places like Cambodia, India and Saudi Arabia. But to reach that goal, “stronger together” is going to have to mean something more than a political slogan from an embittered campaign that now wants to act as an official gatekeeper to determine whose quality of “together-ness” and “femininity” is sufficient to qualify as worth being strong for…

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1 John 5:10-11 The Death Knell of Calvinism

some-lives-matter1 John 5:10-11 states: “Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” [NIV] 

THE ARGUMENT PRESENTED: When looked at objectively it is clear John’s statements are strongly implying God’s testimony is a witness of divine truth meant for every person, but the person who refuses to believe in God’s testimony is essentially calling God a liar because “they have not believed the testimony” of what God has done for him and given to them (i.e. His Son and eternal found in His Son) (vs.10). What is the testimony of what God has given to men— even the person who refuses to believe? John says, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (vs.11). John then implies that the one who does not believe in the Son, is calling God a liar and therefore forfeits the eternal life God has given to him. This is crucial to see. Why?

Because as mentioned in verse 10, the unbeliever is calling God a liar, in that he or she refuses to believe in God’s testimony, namely, that which “God has given about His Son” (vs.10). If this were not so, we are left with the absurd notion that John is condemning unbelievers for calling God a liar because they refuse to believe God gave His Son and the gift of eternal life to elect Christians only!

It is clear John is not condemning unbelievers for calling God a liar because they refuse to believe God has given His Son and the gift of eternal life to some select elect, but rather because they refuse to believe God gave His Son and the gift of eternal life to them.

Believing is certainly at issue but people are never condemned for not believing Christ died for others, but for them! Repeatedly the scriptures teach that people are condemned on the basis of rejecting the Son of God given to them— not for rejecting that the Son of God has been given exclusively to elect Christians. Never once does do the scriptures even suggest such a bizarre, outlandish concept.

100We can illustrate it this way: Let’s say I was to hand a $100 dollar bill to both Person A and Person B, and then I were to declare to them both that I had given them each a $100 dollar bill. If Person B says, “No- I don’t believe it” then he would, in essence, be calling me a liar. But if it were true that I had given Person B nothing and had only give Person A a $100 dollar bill I would not be able to rightfully condemn Person B for calling me a liar. For it would be true— I gave him nothing.

John’s point is that God has not given the unbeliever nothing, but something— the very testimony of His Son (birth, death and resurrection) and eternal life. To refuse to believe this is to call God a liar, and to call God a liar is to forfeit the Son, and to forfeit the Son is to forfeit the eternal found in the Son. For in the following verse John declares in unequivocal terms, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Who is the person who does not have the Son? Obviously it is the person who has “made God a liar because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given of His Son”(vs. 10) [HSBC].

To summarize then, these verses put into serious jeopardy any Calvinist notion that suggests God limited and restricted the scope of His redemptive intention and redemptive love to only an unconditionally elect few. The unbeliever could never call God a liar if it were true that the testimony (Christ and eternal life found in Christ) was not given or intended for him. But, as John says, the testimony of the giving of the Son and eternal life is true and when the unbeliever refuses to believe this, it is on that basis the unbeliever is calling God a liar and stands condemned— “because they have not believed the testimony that God has given about His Son”(vs.10). It bears repeating: John is condemning unbelievers for calling God a liar in that they refuse to believe God gave His Son and eternal life for them.


god-liarSERIOUS IMPLICATIONS:
 The implications of this stretch far and wide. John is saying unbelievers can slander God as a liar by refusing to believe God has sincerely and genuinely given His Son and eternal life to them. However it would also imply that any man or woman who tells other men and women that Christ’s redemptive death and work of salvation has been intentionally restricted to a pre-selected few, rather than to all mankind without exception, would also be calling God a liar. Calvinists can split all the hairs they want, but there is no getting around this serious charge.


god-how-dare-you-doTHE CALVINIST REBUTTAL:
The sole response a Calvinist can muster would be to say: “Well…yes in some sense Christ and eternal life may be offered to all through a general proclamation of the gospel. That would be his revealed, moral will. But in God’s secret will of decree only those whom God unconditionally pre-selected were specifically intended by God to be beneficiaries of the Son given because it was only for the sin of the elect that Christ shed his blood. Everyone else is left in their God-ordained sin to call God a liar and be condemned for it.”

RESPONDING TO THE CALVINIST REBUTTAL: The above explanation by a Calvinist is the typical escape hatch by which all Calvinists seek to evade and circumvent any scripture passage that makes God appear to be too charitable and intentional in His redemptive love for all people. For a Calvinist any suggestion of God being omni-benevolent in redemption is almost treated as a theological cardinal “sin” that must be denounced in the strongest terms possible.

Be that as it may 1 John 5:10-11 simply won’t bend to their wishes. If nothing else the text is a clear refutation of the Calvinist theology of limited, particular atonement and the constrictive manacles they impose upon God’s saving intention. For centuries Calvinist theology has insisted that the un-elect are outside the redemptive orbit of “the world that God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son,” and therefore the Son’s work on the cross was never truly given to them in any tangible, divinely intended manner. But if John is saying anything worth noting, he is saying that the Son (and eternal life found in the Son) has been given— tangibly given to all persons— and a denial of this is to call God a liar.

Shocking as it may be Calvinists are at the forefront of slandering the witness of God since they insist that multitudes of people are outside the orbit of God’s redemptive love and saving intentions through the giving of His Son.

calvinism-question

SERIOUS QUESTIONS: Two reflective questions bear out why the standard Calvinist response simply does not work:

Question 1: How can it sincerely be said the Son of God, and the eternal life He brings, has been given to those whom He didn’t die for and thus never intended to save through the redemptive giving of His life—which is the testimonial basis upon which John says eternal life has been given? (i.e. “he has not believed in the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (vs. 10).”

Questions 2: Moreover since John says the testimony of God’s witness to the world is established on the basis that He has given eternal life though the giving of His Son, how can unbelievers slander God as a liar if it’s true (as Calvinists insist) that the Son was in fact not given to them as a redemptive offering for their sins? What exactly are they not believing that is condemning them?

Once again we are left with the absurd notion that God condemns unbelievers for refusing to believe His Son was given solely to the select elect—but not to them. In other words it would mean people do indeed stand condemned for their unbelief, but not for disbelieving the gospel is good news for them—but for disbelieving Calvinism’s special doctrine of unconditional election on behalf of the elect! And that is ridiculous!

damned-from-eternityIt is this issue that will forever divide Calvinists from Arminians and all non-Calvinists. Calvinism creates a cosmic charade out of grace in which God is seen to feign loving concern towards unbelievers by calling out to them to repent, to believe in the Son given—but its all a guise, a parody of grace with no substance. The truth is there is no tangible Christ for them; there is no forgiveness for sins; there is no genuine opportunity for repentance. In sum there is no Son—only the pretense of a Son given. To this all faithful Christians must say to our misguided Calvinist brothers and sisters, “Cow cookies!” We are called to hold unbelievers to account. The Son has been given and you knowingly reject Him to your peril.

-StriderMTB

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Hypocrisy leads to cataracts in the soul

right-hypocrisyTruth be told Donald Trump is a mentally unstable, morally unprincipled man who can’t be trusted with the highest seat of power. Voting for someone I wouldn’t trust around my own mother seems absurd. The hypocrisy of many in the “moral majority” who have always told us “character matters most” (but this time is doesn’t) is stunning.

On the other hand Hillary is a dishonest, unprincipled woman who for years has been the chief concealer and enabler of her husband’s predatory advances towards women in order to insulate her own political ambitions. She considers herself the uncompromising protector of women’s rights, but has bear-hugged millions of dollars given to her from the most brutal and repressive regimes on earth that systematically run roughshod over the rights of their female citizenry. Her hypocrisy and that of the media knows no bounds. If you don’t think so you need to get your head out of the sand. Neither one should have gotten this far. But the following isn’t about their unfitness to serve because neither one gets my vote.

skeletonRather I want to comment on the hypocrisy that has gotten us this far. The hypocrisy on the right is self-evident and obvious. Trump’s emotional maturity and integrity doesn’t pass the smell test and we all know it. The skeletons in his closet could probably fill a graveyard and evangelical Christians should not be caught trying to “bleach” all those bones (i.e. “he just says stupid things… I’m sure he never means anything by it”). If Trump wins, he wins. But let him do it without our white-washing enablement. There is more at stake than Supreme Court justices. America is not the Kingdom of God. Never was. Never will be. Get that straight and loving your enemy and a host of other counter-intuitive statements of Christ will begin to make more sense.

Now what about the left? I think the hypocrisy on the left is much more nuanced and subtle. But it is also what makes it more dangerous, for what is more subtle is by nature less detectable until it manifests itself as irreversible and terminal—like advanced cancer. For years the left, liberal progressive element of our society has been slipping further and further into subtle hypocrisy. But given their recent reaction of shock and horror over Trump’s lewd remarks towards women, it appears their hypocrisy is now in total free-fall. For in fact Trump is the left—at least on this issue. His objectification of women as titillating sources of personal amusement and entertainment mirrors the commercial degradation of women that has been going on for years. cataractsThat the left is blind to this truth only goes to show how hypocrisy eventually leads to cataracts in the soul.

For decades Hollywood has churned out hundreds if not thousands of films that objectify women and reduce them down to their sexual parts. Yet Hollywood is 90% left wing—not even close to the center. Similarly the liberal, progressive music industry has made billions on lyrics and videos that not only sexualize women, but assault their feminine dignity in a manner that would have made the blood of our parent’s generation run cold. It’s art they say. No it’s sex. And sex sells. We are whoring ourselves in pursuit of the almighty dollar—and losing our kids in the process. Videos that were considered risqué and racy in the 80’s would now be considered prudish and boring—almost wholesome—compared to the pornographic seduction and obscenity laced smut that masquerades as musical entertainment today.

miley-cyrusBut whenever the charge is made on the right that the movie and music industry has gone too far and they need to reign in the smutty garbage they daily pump into our societal consciousness, it is often the left-wing feminists who run to their defense and say showing prolific, uninhibited fornication, grinding multiple men and fingering oneself before a T.V. audience isn’t degrading at all. It isn’t? Nope. We are told it is a healthy means for feminist expression that empowers younger women to be proud of their bodies and take back control of their sexuality from men. Sounds great. Doesn’t work. It’s a pile of steamy you-know-what. In fact it plays right into the playbook of the Donald Trumps and Bill Clinton’s of this world who drool all over that sort of feminine “empowerment.”

Let’s not be so naïve. They and their kind bankroll it! Moreover it makes it even more difficult for our sisters, mothers and daughters to empower themselves in ways outside of sex appeal.

More astonishing is that Barack Obama has praised the some of the worst misogynist rappers like Jay-Z and Ludacris, going so far as to say hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and the rappers Jay-Z and Ludacris were “great talents and great businessmen”. Never mind that their lyrics often boast about sexual violence and assault against women. Though Obama has voiced he is sometimes “troubled” by their lyrics he nonetheless feels this does not change the fact that they are great talents whose business acumen should be praised. How naive can one be? In the industry of rap, lyrics and business are joined at the hip! No one is rapping about “Mary had a little lamb.” Furthermore Obama apparently has zero qualms boasting about listening to Eminem whose routine  lyrical violence against women knows no bounds. Here is just a taste of the lyrical “artists” who have found a place on our President’s i-pod or whom he has personally invited to the White House, like Snoop Dog and Jaz-Z who routinely rap explicitly about sexual assualt.

  • Eminem “The Real Slim Shady” – Jaws all on the floor, like Pam, like Tommy just burst in the door and started whoopin her ass worse then before.
  • Eminem “Superman” – Don’t put out, I’ll put you out, won’t get out, I’ll push you out. There goes another lawsuit, leave handprints all across you. Put anthrax on a tampax, and slap you till you can’t stand.
  • Eminem “Love the Way You Lie” – You push, pull each other’s hair, scratch, claw, hit ‘em. Throw ‘em down, pin ‘em. Im’a tie her to the bed and set this house on fire.”
  • Ludacris “Southern Hospitality” – Lie through your teeth you could find your mouth, cold and rip out ya tongue cause of what ya mouth, told.
  • Lucacris and Mystikal “Move Bitch” – “I’ma ‘bout to punch yo…lights out”
  • Ludacris, Usher, Lil Jon Lovers and Friends” “Be a good girl now, turn around, and get these whippings. You know you like it like that, you don’t have to fight back, Here’s a pillow bite . . . that. 
  • Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre “The Next Episode” – And if yo’ ass get cracked, bitch shut yo’ trap.”
  • Jay-Z and UGK’s “Big Pimpin” – You know I thug em, fuck em, love em, leave em. Cause I don’t fuckin need em. In the cut where I keep em til I need a nut, til I need to beat the guts.

The manner in which misogyny and sexual assault can masquerade as art, and the perpetrators of such “art” be praised by our President as men with gifted talent and business acumen is utterly deplorable and indefensible.

beyonce-blowAnd how both Barack and Michelle Obama can say “Beyoncé could not be a better role model for my girls because she carries herself with such class and poise” is beyond me! It is perhaps the greatest evidence that the collective cataracts of our nation’s soul have brought about an irreversible blindness of desensitization.

After all we all talking about the same Beyoncé who wears the raciest of outfits and routinely laces hers lyrics with the raunchiest of sexual prose–all in the name of female empowerment of course. Note the following empowering speech for Obama’s young girls to follow:

“Who the fuck do you think I is? You ain’t married to no average bitch boy. You can watch my fat ass twist boy. As I bounce to the next dick boy.” (-Beyonce Lemonade)

Or how about this one:

“Oh he so horny, yea he want to fuck. He popped all my buttons, he ripped my blouse, he Monica Lewinski all on my gown.” -(Beyonce Partition)

feminist-hypocrisyLastly the hypocrisy of the left is most profound in how left-wing feminists systematically attack and vilify women on the right who don’t act like them, talk like them or believe like them. Stay home and raise your kids? You’re a sellout. Advocate the wisdom and value of abstinence before marriage? You’re a puritan shrew. Suggest more modest clothing? You’re a prude. Say you are pro-life? You must be against women despite being one. You’re a female Republican? You deserve to be made fun, called a cunt and vilified on SNL. sarah-palin-hypocrisy

For left-wing feminists, it isn’t enough to just be a woman. No—one must be a left-leaning feminist if their femininity is to count.

The left-wing feminist movement use to be just that—a movement—and a much needed one in our society. But today—at least in the US—it is largely a specialized club membership with an entrenched, narrow-minded ideology that stifles and controls the independent thinking of women. I once read somewhere that the feminism of today acts like a credit card. It doesn’t exist to really help women anymore than a credit card exists to help you save and preserve your hard earned income. Sure it may come to your aid from time to time and help you get out of a bind, but their real interest is their shareholders.

Feminism today exists to serve their left-wing shareholders not the general female consumer. And Hillary Clinton is the highest paid shareholder there is.

Just so we know.

-StriderMTB

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I’ve got a bad case of the political “shits”

toiletHillary makes me nauseous. Trump makes me constipated or worse. Either way our country is going to take a trip to the toilet. Count me out.

We are bottom feeding as a country. But our candidates are only a larger reflection of the state of our national soul. After all it was “we the people” that narrowed the field down to such deplorable choices.

But… wow… this latest video about Bill Clinton copied below is probably the lowest level of moral slime we can reach as a political society that insulates the powerful from consequences. I dare anyone to watch it and seriously think she is making it all up. Personally I felt my blood boil. Whether it is pedophile priests, political superstars or Hollywood elites, their day of the millstone will come. (Luke 17:2)

CLICK: Clinton rape victim speaks out.

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A Dream: A Sniper Rifle vs. Christ’s Binoculars

sniper-rifleI just woke up from a powerful dream…in a coffee shop… in Cambodia. The dream was not about being in a coffee shop in Cambodia; I am literally in Cambodia in a coffee shop, having just woken up from a long nap. The dream was quite vivid and my heart is still very heavy with emotions. I am typing this out before it slips away.

In my dream I was on a balcony overlooking a city. Jesus suddenly walked up next to me and calmly pointed down to an apartment block across the block. He then stated that in each apartment complex were guilty men that deserved to die. At my feet there was a sniper rifle. I picked it up, looked through the scope, and began to survey each apartment complex. Rather than be in their rooms each man was outside on their balcony.

Through the scope I saw nothing but anger and cruel evil etched into the faces of each man. Some of the men were yelling and beating their wives. Others were cruelly slapping their kids repeatedly in the face. A few were yelling curses into their phones  while others were yelling up at the sky and shaking their fist at God. Immediately I felt what I perceived to be a righteous indignation well up within me! These people were bad! They needed to be stopped! Jesus said they deserved to die. Therefore I could stop them.

I did not hesitate at all. Immediately and calmly I started at the top balcony and fired off my first shot. Through the scope I saw the head of the man explode, just as he was about to hit his wife again. His death did not bother me a second. I felt emboldened. I felt nothing but justification. Slowly but methodically I worked my way down the side of the building—killing each man on his balcony and watching them drop dead before me.

Once I got to the bottom of the building, and all the men that needed killing were dead, I calmly placed the rifle back down. I looked over at Jesus who was just staring at me.

“What do you feel?” Jesus asked me.

“I feel good. I feel justice has been done. I feel the world is a much better place without those men,” I replied.

binocularsThis is where my memory is a bit fuzzy. But I think Jesus gave me a pair of binoculars. He told me to look through them at the same apartment complex again. I did. What I saw immediately took my breadth away. Instead of seeing angry men shouting at their wives and beating their children, I saw men hugging their wives, kissing their wives and gently tossing their children up into the air and lovingly catching them. Each balcony was a picture of love and happiness.

Suddenly I saw the head of one of the men explode as he was kissing his wife. He had been shot! Then another father dropped dead and another and another. I started screaming! “Stop, stop! Look out!”

But my words changed nothing. With horror I saw each father and husband killed before my eyes. Then it was over. I looked over at the apartment balcony next to me and was horrified to see… myself. I was dressed all in black, looking through a scope. I could hardly see my face, but somehow I knew it was me.

With tears in my eyes I turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, they didn’t deserve to die! You said they deserved to die! But they were loving their families!”

Jesus calmly replied, “I didn’t kill them, you did.”

“No, I didn’t Jesus,” I pleaded. “I only killed the bad men that deserved to die.”

“They are the same men,” Jesus replied calmly.

I began to cry heavily. My heart was in deep agony over what I had done. I fell to my feet. “I don’t understand…” grief

Jesus then began to explain. “What you saw through the scope of the sniper rifle was only judgment that was void of hope. The sniper rifle is an instrument of death as is judgment without hope. When you are too quick to judge others, your judgment is “hope-less”, and you can only see what people deserve in the emotion of your own anger and sense of justice. When you only seek to judge people you kill them by prematurely cutting them off from the hope that life could be different for them. What you saw through my binoculars is hope and the power of hope to change lives.”

I sat on the balcony floor. I could say nothing. But Jesus had more to say. “There were times in your life when you were in the cross hairs of other people that thought you deserved to die. They judged you, but I had hope for you. You are still alive because the cross hairs of others did not overlap my cross hairs. Don’t be quick to judge others. Don’t be quick to put people in your cross hairs. Look through my binoculars and see people with hope.”

Still unsure, I asked, “How could those angry, cruel men I killed become the joyful, gentle fathers and husbands I saw through your binoculars?”

“Only one way,” Jesus replied. “You would have to forgo being content to only judge them. You would need to go to them and speak my words and truth to them. Never be content to just stand far away and tell yourself what you think people deserve. You may be right—but it kills hope.”

The utter horror of what I had done began to effect me even more. I could hear the cries and wailing of wives and children grieving in the distance. The intensity of my own grief and crying woke me up. I now find myself alone in this café, sitting on a too-comfortable beanbag, typing out my thoughts. I feel there may have been something in my dream previous to my looking through the sniper rifle… but I can’t remember what it was or if it was important. Dreams can be so elusive, like smoke slipping through our fingers the minute we wake up. But the part I wrote above is strongly pressed into my consciousness because of the emotions that I still feel.

Whether this dream truly came from God, I don’t know. I only share it because I do believe there is a message in it that needs to be taken to heart. One of the struggles I have had in Cambodia is the pervasive evil I see men in this country inflict on their own wives, children and society. A healthy standard of masculinity, fatherhood and faithfulness is sorely lacking. Domestic violence, human trafficking, rape, marital unfaithfulness, abject laziness, corruption, theft, apathy and senseless cruelty is currently decimating the soul of Cambodia.

It is hard for me to see hope that things can be different. I find myself often becoming angry with the men of this country and secretly wishing death and destruction upon many of them. May God help me to see them with eyes of hope and the capacity of his truth to radically alter their lives and that of this country.

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Vegetarianism and Homosexuality

1 Corinthians 5:1-12 “It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you… When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord. …Don’t you know that a little yeast permeates the whole batch of dough?… I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 10 I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. 11 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? 13 But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves.

pride

If you profess to be a Christian and consider the Scriptures to be a trustworthy source of authority that expresses God’s will in guiding New Testament oriented Christians into greater discipleship and holiness, you will undoubtedly be asked the question:

“How can you Christians judge gay people as being wrong?” 

In answering this barbed question, four critical qualifications need to be made.

FIRST QUALIFICATION: Firstly we need to distinguish homosexuality as an orientation from homosexual behavior and practice. The first is a state of orientation and is not sinful in and of itself. The distinction between homosexuality as a state of orientation and homosexuality as behavior is a critical distinction with huge implications. For starters it makes the controversial argument, “I was born this way” irrelevant. What matters is not how one came to arrive at the desires they have. What matters is what one does with their desires once they have them. A heterosexual male may have a natural desire to look at porn every night or may admit to being sexually attracted to his married secretary. But that doesn’t give him license to act on those desires.

SECOND QUALIFICATION: Secondly if desire or orientation does not equate to sin, it means it is perfectly possible to have a homosexual orientation and yet be a spirit-filled Christian under the discipline of the Lord. There are numerous people who identify as being “gay” and yet choose not to act on those desires because of a higher conviction and loyalty to Christ. Such people should be welcomed, loved and praised in the Church for their selfless commitment to carry their cross into the most sensitive area of their humanity.

There are various reasons one might choose to deny their sexual urges for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. They may find themselves to have same-sex attractions they can’t disavow but also can’t fulfill or satisfy. Maybe they have a physical impairment that has nonetheless left their hormones raging and the internet a click away. Or perhaps they are a divorced or single missionary living in a foreign land and feel the intimacy of the marriage bed slipping away from them year by year. Either way such persons know the daily battle of loneliness and constantly needing to deny their sexual cravings for the sake of Christ. But they keep their eyes on the beauty and joy of heaven’s eternity and draw strength from its vision. Such people are no doubt who Christ had in mind when he said,

For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can” (Mt. 19:12).

crossThe point is, whether it be through nurture or nature it matters not how one came to arrive at a homosexual orientation or how natural those desires feel, because Christ made it clear that if there exists any conflict between who we feel we are and who Christ calls us to be, denying ourselves rather than gratifying ourselves is the mark of a true believer. “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself pick up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

We live in an uninhibited age of self-worship wherein the cardinal dogma is self-satisfaction. Self-denial is considered to backwards, if not “sinful.” In today’s world to have certain desires is all the justification one feels they need to validate fulfilling those desires. Christ says the exact opposite. “Deny yourself and come follow Me.”

THIRD QUALIFICATION: This leads to the next qualification that needs to be made in regards to the opening question. If we are talking about people who seriously profess to be followers of Christ and consider Scripture to be authoritative in their life, then the way they live their life is not only open to the scrutiny of the Church body but is also subject to the judgments of the Church based on Scripture. This is crucial to understand.

FOURTH QUALIFICATION:  Given what has already been stated the last qualification is the most important. If we are talking about persons who are outside the Church, the short answer is we can’t judge them! In fact the Scripture says it is none of our business (1 Cor. 5:12). It is simply not within the purview of the Church to prosecute the behavior of secular outsiders on an an internal understanding of Christian sanctification. This doesn’t mean we can’t assess, consider or deem the actions of the secular world as being immoral. Neither does it mean Christians can’t pursue legislative options to outlaw various crimes or injustices. The statement, “We can’t legislate morality” is both true and untrue. We do legislate morality in terms of outlawing murder, rape and slavery and we ought to continue to support efforts to defend the innocent, the vulnerable and the unborn in the womb.

On the other hand most Christians would agree it would be wildly foolish to expend our efforts in the 21st century trying to outlaw pre-marital sex, idolatry, coveting and greed. In other words the Church’s focus, energy and mission is being misplaced (i.e. not our business) when we try to foist the Church’s internal standard of holiness–even sexual holiness–upon a secular world that could care less. Paul stated the point quite clearly when he rhetorically asked what business it was of him to judge those outside the Church (vs. 12). Does this mean those outside the Church do not face judgment of any kind? Not in the least. Paul qualifies, “…but God will judge outsiders.” Moreover does it mean the Church has no business at all judging the actions of anyone–including Christians? That would also be incorrect. For Paul just as equally makes the point that if someone calls themselves a follower of Christ, but lives in unrepentant sin, fellow believers should have nothing to do with them or their hypocrisy.

This idea that the Church is fully within her rights to judge those within the Church but not outside the Church is not at all strange when we examine it. If you think of the Church body as a “club membership” you can begin to understand the internal dynamics more. When you voluntarily choose to join a “club” you knowingly agree to abide by certain standards or bylaws that others outside the club do not need to abide by and obey. These standards and ordinances can relate to a wide range of issues from conduct and etiquette to dress code. Any decision to reject those standards is essentially a decision to reject the club that is identified by those standards. The point is clubs don’t exist by conforming or bending to the wishes of outsiders. They exist by holding people accountable to their internal ordinances.

VEGETARIANISM: A HELPFUL ILLUSTRATION 

Let me use another example. Where I live there are two café restaurants in town that exist next to each other. But they really don’t compete with each other because they serve different clients. One café restaurant is vegetarian and the other restaurant has a wide range of meat choices from fish and poultry to pork and beef. vegetarian-buzzardsNow if you knowingly choose to walk into the vegetarian restaurant, but start to complain about the restrictive vegetarian menu and demand a T-bone steak be provided, that would be akin to someone outside the Church complaining about the restrictive, moral prohibitions that exist inside the Church and demanding that the Church update itself to the liberal “meat menu” of the world.

But in the same manner if I choose to freely and knowingly walk into a restaurant that is a meat-lovers smorgasbord, I can’t start judging and condemning everyone around me for seeking to fulfill his or her meat cravings and appetites. I can’t demand that that they all convert to vegetarianism as a way of life simply because I have chosen such strict, diet restrictions for myself. Unfortunately this is exactly what some Christians seek to do in their interaction with the outside world. They seek to import the internal restrictions of Church-life on those outside the Church before such people even have the “spirit” to live under those restrictions by their own choice.

WHEN JUDGMENT IS APPROPRIATE: But now we get to Paul’s critical, second statement in verse 12. He clearly says it is God’s business, but not his business, to judge the behavior of outsiders. But then he rhetorically implies he is fully within his rights to judge those inside the Church! In other words Paul is singling out professing Christians who undermine the internal unity of that which they profess to follow by acting like outsiders who snub their nose at the Church’s “vegetarian” restrictions.

Earlier Paul warned that a little bit of yeast could easily spread throughout the whole loaf (vs. 6). This concern of Paul sets up his later counsel to “not associate with anyone who claims to be a believer” (vs. 11) but whose actions undermine that claim. He declares that the in-house judgment of the Church should be to “put away the evil person from among yourselves” (vs. 13). This may sound overly harsh at first blush, but Paul rightly recognizes the stakes are enormous. If the Church were to compromise with hypocrisy (and cater to it by ignoring it) the end result will be detrimental to the Church at large. Paul does not want to see this. It is not about hatred but maintaining integrity and wholeness and preserving essence. In the same way a vegetarian restaurant would be unwilling to compromise the integrity of their menu to cater to those who say they are vegetarians but demand to be served pulled pork and steak sirloin on weekends, so also the Church is fully within her rights to not compromise the integrity of the Scriptures by catering to those that want to flaunt them.

A note of caution is in order. I am not talking about Christians who admit to an occasional struggle with sexual immorality (whether it be gay or straight) and sometimes fall into sin. I am talking about persons who reject the very notion that their sexual immorality could be classified as “sin.” That is to say I am talking about persons who knowingly refuse to maintain the integrity of that which they profess to follow and seek to actually re-orient, if not completely jettison, any restriction that prohibits them from pursing and satisfying their sexual desires.

Imagine if butchers, calling themselves vegetarians, hauled in huge slabs of bloody, red meat into a vegetarian restaurant, slapped them on the kitchen counter-top and started demanding that the vegetarian kitchen stop discriminating against their dietary preferences and commence grilling their meat to their liking. The proprietor of the vegetarian restaurant would only be acting responsibly if he or she were to tell those customers they have no business being in their restaurant until they can agree to abide by the very regulations that define what a vegetarian restaurant is– as opposed to what it is not!

two-men-yellingBut once again that same proprietor has no business walking over to the non-vegetarian restaurant and judging everyone inside who is eating meat. In essence this is what Paul meant when he said, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (vs. 12)

Paul rightly recognized that following Christ is a matter of conversion, and conversion is a matter of the heart rather than simply copying the internal mannerisms of a group. Does all of this mean Christians can’t evangelize, talk about sin, or call out for people outside the Church to surrender their hearts to the rule of Christ?

Not at all.

veganEVANGELISM VS JUDGMENT: I have found it interesting that in the last decade there has been a huge campaign by the non-meat-eating sector of our society to literally evangelize and convert the heart of people to their side by inundating our consciousness with gut-wrenching pictures of animal cruelty, soul-searching documentaries, informative billboards, conferences, magazine subscriptions, social media campaigns, t-shirts and cook books. It is their mission to reach as many people as possible around the world and convert hearts and minds with their message. For some it may be annoying, and for others it may come off sounding judgmental and self-righteous, but vegetarians are certainly within their rights to call people out of what they perceive to be the “darkness” of the meat industry and into the “light” of vegetarianism or a vegan way of life.

In the same manner, while the Scriptures make it clear we are not called to judge and condemn those outside the church, we are certainly within the boundaries of Scripture to encourage people outside the Church to give up their worldly ways and come to the light of Jesus.

Yes there are different voices and various denominations in the Church preaching the gospel of Christ, just like one can hear various voices from the vegetarian community preaching the benefits of vegetarianism. Some vegetarians are quite restrictive vegans and consider themselves to be morally superior to all meat eaters. Many won’t even drink milk on moral grounds, while others will make allowances for eating fish and eggs. Some identify as vegetarians solely because they believe animals have intrinsic rights, equal to human rights, while others are more attracted to the health benefits they believe such a diet affords them.

Even though the vegetarian community is diverse and there exists different degrees of vegetarianism, the one thing that binds them altogether and gives meaning to their diet identity is their commitment to not eat red meat. The day that “vegetarian” means one who eats both vegetables and red meat is the day the word ceases to have any coherent meaning. The word “vegetarianism” only has meaning to the degree that its core features are upheld.

WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? Similarly the word “Christian” only has meaning to the degree that a Christ-like walk is upheld through faith in Christ and faithfulness to Christ. In that sense the word “Christian” refers to one who faithfully carries their cross rather than condoning their sin. One can always find hypocrites in the Church just like one can find vegetarians who “cheat” on weekends. But by and large the Church is called by God to be a community of people who have committed themselves to not “cheat.” They recognize that following Christ may be personal but it is not private. It is journey of exposure, transparency and being held accountable to Scripture’s teachings and injunctions about what it means to be “holy” and set apart from the uninhibited impulses of the world. At least it should be!

discipleThe very word disciple means, “one under discipline” and implies we are called to bring our natural desires and impulses under the tutelage and discipline of God’s revealed will concerning the acceptable and unacceptable. In multiple places in the New Testament homosexual behavior and practice is forbidden and lifted up as a symptom of a world that has departed from God’s creational intention for men and women (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9; Jude 1:7). It is simply not on the “menu.”

In short the Scriptures tell us we have every reason to socially associate and reach out in love to unbelievers outside the church. But we are not to associate or “mix” with professing “insiders” who routinely act like unbelieving “outsiders.” We are called to do the former because it is God’s will that the Church be a hospital for sinners rather than a Hilton for saints. We are called to do the latter because what good is a hospital to anyone if it begins to misdiagnose the ailments of people and allow those ailments to spread unabated. It then becomes a place for transmission rather than healing.

Paul is careful to note the dangers that exist outside the Church and the threat they pose to the health of the Church if she were to assimilate certain practices into the internal life of the Church. Paul does not limit himself to only those who are sexual immoral but to professing believers who are “greedy, idolaters, verbally abusive, drunkards, and swindlers”( 1 Cor. 5:11). The Church has compromised for far too long with the sin of greed, verbal abuse in marriage, and an overconsumption of alcohol. To our detriment we have marginalized such sins to the side as if they are minor infractions to be overlooked rather than confronted, challenged and rebuked. yeast

We are currently suffering the ailments of such sins spreading like yeast throughout the Church. The Western Church has never been more weak and anemic as she is now. A revolution is needed and it will take bold men and women being unafraid of being labeled as “intolerant,” “extremist,” and “narrow-minded” to restore an uncompromising message of holiness to the Church.

RADIATION AS CHURCH DISCIPLINE: Though we have many Christians currently pounding the pulpit about sin, we still lack the most essential attribute that undergirds authentic Church discipline—love. We are called to do all things out of love. Even Paul’s harshest language is undergirded by a deep love and concern for the sinner’s eternal well-being. He stated, “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:4-5). The phase “so that” is translated from the Greek word “hina.” That should not be missed! “Hina” is a word that denotes the purpose or result of an antecedent action. Paul has both senses in mind. He is saying the purpose of removing the sinner from the congregation is to bring ruin and destruction to his sinful, fleshly desires with the end result being that his spirit would be eternally saved!

If one has cancer in one’s body, radiation may keep it from spreading and save the individual, but it is never pleasant. So also the “radiation” of Church discipline may be a painful and bitter experience, but the goal is to shrink the sinful “tumors” of the flesh and save the individual out of authentic, loving devotion to their eternal good.

TRADING IN TRUTH FOR SELF-CENTERED “TOLERANCE”: To ignore and excuse the sinful “tumors” in those inside the Church because we are afraid to offend them is not love or even appeasement. It is extremely selfish and manifestly hateful because we are choosing to enjoy their short-term appraisal of us as “tolerant friends” rather than be concerned with their long-term well-being.

doctor-truthIt is no less repulsive and un-loving than if a doctor were to refuse to tell his or her friend the sad (yet true) diagnosis of their terminal (yet treatable) sickness because he or she doesn’t want to disappoint their friend with upsetting news. How utterly deplorable it would be for a doctor to “tolerate” their friend’s tumors because they want to avoid “offending” their friend’s happiness and personal sense of well-being. Indeed it would be manifestly hateful for them to knowingly choose to enjoy a few, brief years of phony, yet pleasant, doctor-to-patient conversations with their friend than provide a true assessment of their’s friend’s condition and endure the unpleasant conversations that will inevitably follow.

God is not so un-loving and selfish.

He is a true friend and a true physician.

And He desires that His Church be of the same mind.

 

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