Gay marriage, politics, and the Bible

Men arguingNorth Carolina has just become the 30th state to enshrine the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in the state constitution. I am pleased by the outcome, but dismayed by the process and the rhetoric.

In the local newspaper, proponents and opponents of the marriage amendment lobbed scriptures back and forth as if a couple of verses settled the matter. That’s wrong for at least three reasons.

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Becoming OK with God: thoughts on the meaning of justification

Justification by faith in Christ

Christ the Redeemer

Justification by faith is too important to let it become just religious talk. If we are justified by faith, what does justify mean in ordinary language? Here are some sentences I found with an online search “justify in a sentence”

  • Refusal of a request to work beyond 65 must be objectively justified by the employer.
  • These pluses, we feel, amply justify a rate increase.
  • These features justify the expense of the software.

All of these sentences imply two questions, really.

Is it right, or OK, to refuse the request, increase the rates, buy the software, or go to war?… Read the rest

A prophetic word for a new heart in hard times

hard times

Today, we’re in an economic meltdown. People are suffering in these hard times. It appears now that when people act in their own self-interest—save, pay down debt, do the kinds of things that we all should have been doing in the first place—it makes the general economic climate even worse. Unfortunately, the scope of the trouble is so large and complex that looking for someone to blame is a lot easier than deciding what to do about it. So goes the coming election cycle.

Where is God in all this? Can we cry out to him for help, or is this mess somehow his judgment?… Read the rest

Luke’s introduction to his gospel: why should we trust him?

St. Luke window

St. Luke window

Is the Bible a reliable historical document? Can we trust it?

How can we know the truth of the Bible?

A careful examination of the introduction to Luke’s gospel gives us a lot to think about.

After all, he wrote it to someone asking exactly the same questions.

Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.

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On finding contradictions in Scripture, or not


Some people say that the Bible is full of contradictions. If they’re articulate enough, secular society considers them intellectually superior to people who simply believe the Bible as it is. And they certainly do, whether society does or not. I ought to know. I used to be one of them. Funny thing, though: the more I have studied the Bible, the harder it has become to find the contradictions. As much as I strive to be humble, I can’t help thinking that if everyone else studied the Bible in enough detail to understand what each author wanted to convey and the exact meaning of the words he used, they, too, would find it harder and harder to locate contradictions.… Read the rest

Predestination and the Jews in Romans 9


Romans 9 may be the most troublesome chapter in the New Testament. Misunderstandings of this chapter have led to a caricature of the doctrine of predestination that teaches that God in his sovereignty has already decided who will and will not be saved and, as a result, nothing mere humans do will. They have also led to centuries of Christian teaching that God rejected the Jews. Popular commentator William Barclay even declared that Paul got the whole thing wrong!

What is the place of Romans 9 within the entire book? Notice that it is possible to finish reading chapter 8 and continue immediately with chapter 12 without any sense of having missed anything.… Read the rest

The Bride of Christ: Dead to Mr. Law


We must count ourselves dead to sin. That’s well known. The church is ultimately the bride of  Christ. That’s well known, too. Less well known is that we must also count ourselves dead to the law. In fact, my Sunday school class had trouble wrapping their minds around that concept. They couldn’t conceive of eliminating the moral principles of the law from the Christian life. That’s not quite what Paul meant.

Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13). Indeed, in two different chapters (Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28), the Mosaic covenant lays out exactly the blessings that come from obeying the law and then takes about three times as much space laying out all the evil that comes from breaking it.… Read the rest

The church: sons of God


So in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3:26-29.

As I wrote last time, ” Attempting to emasculate the language of our hymns, prayers, and Bible translation does not make our worship more inclusive. It merely hides and obscures profound imagery that could lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationship to God.… Read the rest

God is our husband


Over the past several decades, the church has become embarrassed over the fact that almost exclusively male imagery—and exclusively masculine pronouns—have always been used to refer to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In our day and age, how are women supposed to relate to male deity at every turn? The same way men ought to relate: God is our husband. In Scriptural imagery, God is masculine to the extent that all of creation is feminine to him. God is male to the extent that all creation is female to him. Rewriting hymns and traditional prayers and retranslating the Bible into gender-neutral forms does not broaden our understanding of God.… Read the rest

Beatitudes vs Ten Commandments



Quiet contemplation--beatitudes, ten commandments

A large store posted its core values where everyone could see them. They included friendliness and good customer service, but one clerk was providing particularly surly and reluctant service.

When a customer pointed out, as gently as he could, that she was not living up to those core values, she snapped that she considered them as just words on paper.

The Beatitudes are the core values of the church. There is probably no other passage in the New Testament that is so widely known and admired.

Some people even hold them up as the be all and end all of Christianity.… Read the rest