Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What is repentance and faith?

A.W. Pink offers a beautiful description of these two terms: "Repentance is the hand releasing those filthy objects it had previously clung to so tenaciously while faith is extending an empty hand to God to receive His gift of grace."

Friday, July 8, 2011

John Piper Interviews Rick Warren

This is old news on the 'blogospher', but many within my circles may be unfamiliar with it. Warren is one of those figures that has become easy to beat up on. Some of it is well deserved, but some of the criticism against him is little more than thoughtless hate-mongering. This is an incredibly thorough interview that seeks Warren's view on some heavy doctrinal matters such as unconditional election, propitiation, total depravity, and hell (among other doctrines).  John Piper asks wise questions, pushes the conversation deeper, and ends the interview with a beautiful challenge. All who are concerned about the life of the church should find this interview helpful and challenging.

Those reading this on facebook will need to visit my blog directly: www.joshgelatt.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How to Disagree with other Christians Faithfully

An excellent short video featuring Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, and Michael Horton.  (For those reading this on facebook, you'll need to visit my blog directly to watch the video: www.joshgelatt.com).

Chandler, Horton, Keller on How to Disagree from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jonathan Dudley's Take on Homosexuality

Jonathan Dudley recently wrote opinion piece for CNN.com that discussed the subject of homosexuality. The title of the article leaves no doubt as to the article's conclusion: "My Take: The Bible Condemns alot, So Why Focus on Homosexuality?" He begins his article by saying,
Growing up in the evangelical community, I learned the Bible's stance on homosexuality is clear-cut. God condemns it, I was taught, and those who disagree just haven't read their Bible closely enough. Having recently graduated from Yale Divinity School, I can say that my childhood community's approach to gay rights--though well intentioned--is riddled with self-serving double standards.
He then begins to advocate for the acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual marriage by appealing to what he sees as faulty reasoning within the Christianity community and within the Bible. He writes:
I don't doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin. In Romans 1, the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations, the Apostle Paul calls them "unnatural". Problem is, Paul's only other moral argument from nature is the following: "Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?" (1 Cor 11:14-15). Few Christians would answer that question with a 'yes'.
In short, Paul objects to two things as unnatural: one is male-male sex and the other is long hair on men and short hair on women. The community opposed to gay marriage takes one condemnation as timeless and universal and the other as culturally relative.
Dudley's factual errors in this paragraph are numerous. First, two New Testament authors mention homosexuality, though one does so rather opaquely. Jude mentions that the inhabitants of Sodom gave themselves over to "sexual immorality and perversion" (1:7).
Second, the New Testament speaks to the issue of homosexuality three times (4x w/ Jude), and overall Scripture speaks to this issue twelve times (13x w/ Jude). Two references refer to homosexual rape (Gen 19:5; Judges 19:22), five refer to cult homosexual prostitution (Deut 23:17-18; 1 Kings 14:23-24; 15:12-13; 22:46; 2 Kings 23:6-8), 1 refers to pederasty (1 Cor 6:9-10), and 4 refer to homosexuality in general (Lev 18:21-22; 20:13; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Tim 1:8-10).

Third, Romans 1 is not the only place in Scripture where a reason for abstaining from homosexual practice is given. Both Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 claim that homosexuality is an "abomination". This is highly significant because both chapters specifically claim to be direct revelation from God (verse 1 "The Lord said to Moses..."). But Scripture offers more reasons: 1 Timothy 1:10 claims that homosexual practice is "contrary to sound doctrine" and 1 Cor 6:9 says those who practice it "will not inherit the kingdom of God".  In summary, one should abstain from homosexuality because (a) God commands it, (b) it is unnatural, (c) God considers it an abomination, (d) it is contrary to correct doctrine, and (e) those who practice it will not enter God's kingdom.

Fourth, Dudley grabs two different arguments from two different Pauline letters irrespective of context.  One Greek scholar writing on 1 Cor 6:14 states that in Paul's day "the only surviving statues in Corinth portraying men wearing long hair, besides male deities, are those appearing in the Facade of the Captives in the forum in Roman Corinth. Their long hair is intended to send the message that these captives were weak, soft, and effeminate. Long hair for men is unnatural for Paul because in his cultural context it conveys sexual ambiguity and hints of moral perversion" (Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary, pp530-31). In Romans 1 Paul is saying that homosexuality violates nature, and in 1 Cor 6 Paul is likewise saying that gender/sexual confusion (including confusion of gender roles) is likewise unnatural. Paul witnessed first hand a Roman society that openly practiced what we would consider cross-dressing or transvestite behavior. Philo, the Jewish philosopher, railed against what he called "the disease of effemination" among men in his day. For Paul, hair-styles were simply illustrative of a larger issue of sexual/gender role confusion.

Next, Dudley appeals to the Catholic Church's historic stance on celibacy. He writes:
But the community opposed to gay marriage has itself revised the Christian tradition in a host of ways. For the first 1,500 years of Christianity, for example, marriage was deemed morally inferior to celibacy. When a theologian names Jovinian challenged that hierarchy in 390 A.D., merely by suggesting that marriage and celibacy might be equally worthwhile endeavors, he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated from the Church. Yale New Testament professor Dale B. Martin has noted that today’s "pro-family" activism, despite its pretense to be representing traditional Christian values, would have been considered “heresy” for most of the church’s history.
Very true, but Dudley seems to be forgetting (or is conveniently ignoring) that the Reformers were adamantly opposed to the Roman Catholic view of celibacy and viewed it as unbiblical. Adolf von Harnack said a century ago that "the Evangelical parsonage, founded by Luther, became the model and blessing of the entire German nation". The Reformers maintained that the Roman Catholics had abandoned Scripture's clear teachings regarding the importance of marriage and family (note: much of the reason for the Catholic view was the infiltration of neo-platonic thought, which viewed the physical--in this case, sexuality--as "less holy" than "spiritual" activities such as the ministry of priests).

Dudley then brings up the issue of abortion, stating that "the vast majority of Christian theologians and saints throughout history have not believed that life begins at conception". He then quotes two church theologians (Augustine and Aquinas), both of whom believed that the developing fetus only became endowed with a living soul at some stage within gestation (for Augustine it was when the child was "endowed with senses" and for Aquinas when it possessed organs). From this Dudley makes this startling claim: "It won't do to oppose gay marriage because its not traditional while advocating other positions that are not traditional".

First of all, the reason Evangelicals oppose homosexuality and gay marriage has nothing to do with church tradition. We oppose it because it is condemned in Scripture. Secondly, what Dudley fails to tell his reader is that Augustine and Aquinas (and those who followed them) didn't rely upon Scripture for their view of abortion. In ancient times, the "delayed ensoulment" belief of Aristotle was widely accepted. Aristotle was so influential that Aquinas would refer to him in his writings simply as "the Philosopher". The delayed ensoulment view taught that the human embryo 'evolves' or becomes 'animated' with a human soul at some stage in the gestation process (often this was believed to be within the first 90 days). Many believers, following pagan philosophy rather than God's word, likewise maintained that life only begins when the human fetus is 'animated' with a living soul. 

But there have been other voices. The second-century Epistle of Barnabas treats the unborn child as any other human neighbor by saying, “You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not slay a child by abortion. You shall not kill that which has already been generated” (Epistle of Barnabas 19:5). The Didache, a second-century catechism for young converts, states, “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a new-born infant” (Didache 2:2). Tertullian said, “It does not matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. In both instances, the destruction is murder” (Apology 9:4). Reformer John Calvin said, “The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.”

Throughout church history many Christians have abandoned Scripture's teachings on creation, life, and humanity because of their dependence upon non-Christian thought. Whether it be the philosophy of Aristotle, or the philosophy of modern day secular humanism, the fact remains that the delayed ensoulment view is incompatible with Scripture. Dudley, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, must certainly be aware of the philosophical source of this view. His failure to mention this (along with his attempt at making this a 'Christian' view) is alarmingly revisionist.

Dudley then switches to the issue of divorce. He states:
Although there is only one uncontested reference to same-sex relations in the New Testament, divorce is condemned throughout, both by Jesus and Paul. To quote Jesus from the Gospel of Mark, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery." A possible exception is made for unfaithfulness. 
The community opposed to gay marriage usually reads these condemnations very leniently. A 2007 issue of Christianity Today, for example featured a story on its cover about divorce that concluded that Christians should permit divorce for adultery, emotional and physical neglect, and abandonment and abuse. The author emphasizes how impractical it would be to apply a strict interpretation of Jesus on this matter: "It is difficult to believe the Bible can be as impractical as this interpretation implies." 
Indeed it is. On the other hand, it's not at all difficult for a community of Christian leaders, who are almost exclusively white, heterosexual men, to advocate interpretations that can be very impractical for a historically oppressed minority to which they do not belong--homosexuals.
Dudley appeals to the "other people ignore the Bible too" line of reasoning. To be fair, Dudley is exposing the hypocrisy of Evangelical Christians. With Paul, we would look at our fellow Evangelical brothers and sisters and say "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (Rom 2:24). We've ignored the Biblical commands concerning the purpose and definition of marriage with the issue of divorce. It is therefore no surprise if the homosexual movement seeks to do the same thing with the issue of sexuality. In many ways, we've lost our right to judge.

But, Scripture has not lost its right to judge. Dudley has offered two basic arguments for the acceptance of homosexuality, both of which side-step the authority of Scripture. One intentionally ignores (at least certain) biblical commands. The other abandons Scripture in favor of pagan philosophy. His article show no attempt to understand or submit to scriptural teaching.

Dudley ends his article with the following advice:
So let's stop the charade and be honest. Opponents of gay marriage aren't defending the Bible's values. They're using the Bible to defend their own. How does that sit with "family values" activism today 
I agree, let's stop the charade. Let's stop pretending the Scripture doesn't speak to these issues. Let's stop pretending that God isn't serious about divorce, marriage, the protection of life, and human sexuality. Let's stop pretending that He hasn't been crystal clear. Let's stop listening to voices like Dudley's who are urging the Christian community to abandon yet another biblical command.

Let's start obeying what the Bible says, in all areas to which it speaks

Friday, July 1, 2011

B.B. Warfield on John 3:16

In light of my comments this past Sunday that God loves everyone, here is a quote from B. B. Warfield, the elder Calvinist theologian from Westminster Theological Seminary. Here he comments on John 3:16:

"The passage was not intended to teach, and certainly does not teach, that God loves all men alike and visits each and every one alike with the same manifestations of his love: and as little was it intended to teach or does it teach that his love is confined to a few especially chosen individuals selected out of the world. What it is intended to do is to arouse in our hearts a wondering sense of the marvel and mystery of the love of God for the sinful world – conceived here, not quantitatively but qualitatively as, in its very distinguishing characteristic, sinful." (“God’s Immeasurable Love”, Biblical and Theological Studies)