Six 24-hour Days: Fact or Fiction? – Part 2

By Erik Martin

-Continued from yesterday-

5. Jesus’ Teaching

Jesus also embraced a straightforward reading of Genesis 1. He affirmed the common Jewish interpretation of Genesis when He cited, without reservation, Genesis 5:2 in Matthew 19:4. If the Jews erroneously understood Genesis chapters one and two, Jesus would have corrected them as was His practice (Matthew 23:1-23; Luke 13:1-4).

Jesus was eager to correct the misinterpretations and false teaching of Second-Temple Judaism (Matthew 22:29). He firmly upheld the accuracy and truthfulness of God’s Law (John 10:35; 17:17) while also carefully fixing Jewish misconceptions by freeing the text from their bogus traditions (Matthew 5:17-19, 21-48).

6. Historical Evidence

A recent creation has always been the predominant, if not the universal, position of the people of God. A young earth was embraced by Judaism for thousands of years. A recent genesis is the universal position of the historic church. Until the Enlightenment, orthodox Christianity never questioned the Genesis account.

If God took millions of years to create and intended Christians (and Jews) to embrace an old earth, then why did He allow the church to get it wrong for 2,000 years and Judaism for the previous 1,500 years? If God created over long periods of time and then intentionally lied to His people or allowed them to misunderstand for thousands of years, then He is not truthful or good.

Furthermore, He would be an impotent communicator and the rest of His revelation is likewise unreliable and inaccurate. Furthermore, why would God finally enlighten His children to the truth by revealing it through the scientific speculations of those who hate Him? God, as a loving Father, always communicates accurately by speaking to His children through His prophets and now the Scriptures. Any other belief undermines the foundation of Christian faith. Christian epistemology requires no less.

7. Scientific Evidence

Finally, science does not actually prohibit a young earth. We have no extant humanly-generated eyewitness record of the origin of the universe. No man observed the beginning; even Adam only got in on the very end. This does not leave us in the dark. God was present and provided a reliable record.

Since no human witnessed the foundation of the world, and creation cannot be replicated, modern science can only hypothesize theories about the origins of time, matter, and life. Science applies uniformitarianism and assumes that the current patterns of the cosmos have never changed. This overlooks several important factors.

A. The earth was created without sin and sin has altered the way things work.

B. A global flood destroyed the past ecosystem and severely altered the world.

C. God created with apparent age.

He made Adam an adult, capable of naming all the animals, old enough to seek a mate, able to tend the Garden and competent to provide for His own needs.

God created the heavenly bodies as a celestial clock. Their function visibly marks out times and season requiring their light to have been instantly apparent on earth. The sun testifies to, rather than sets, the length of days. The length of a day was established on day one, not day four.

Science tries to undermine the Genesis account and gives many evidences to prop up macro-evolution. Even so, evolution cannot produce a battering ram able to definitively discredit the Genesis record. The question of origins comes down to epistemology. What do we trust as reliable? How do we know what we say we know? Do we trust the Scriptures or do we trust science?

Read part 1: https://modernpuritan.com/2014/03/14/what-happened/

Six 24-hour Days: Fact or Fiction?

by Erik Martin

Thesis: God created the earth in six literal twenty-four hour days approximately six to ten thousand years ago.

While this has been the historic position of Christ-followers, a traditional understanding of creation is now unpopular. Let’s look and see if the Bible really teaches a quickly-completed and recent creation. Has the church misunderstood God’s intention? What does the Bible really say?

1. Genesis 1:1

The most compelling support for a recent formation of the earth is Genesis chapter one. The opening verse of the Bible unequivocally declares, “God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen.1:1). In Genesis 1-2 the declared Creator explains how He accomplished this feat.

The Biblical text uses plain time markers understandable even to uneducated men to indicate the timeframe and chronology of God’s creation. Jews calculate their days from sundown until the following sundown. Genesis 1:3 speaks of the first creation day having an evening and then a morning. This linguistic structure links the days of Genesis 1 to Judaism’s common method of marking days. The length of a day when Genesis was composed, around 1450 B.C., is therefore comparable to the length of a day at the Beginning–even before the sun was born. Consequently, the original audience of the first book of Moses, Israel in the wilderness, would easily have understood that the creation was fully accomplished in six normal days.

An unbiased and straightforward reading of the first chapter of Genesis requires a quickly finished creation. Furthermore, God does not have a speech impediment; He is not a poor communicator. If He intended us to believe in an old earth, He could have easily explained His creative acts in a way that unambiguously recognized millions of years of creative processes.

2. Biblical Genealogies

Next, the biblical genealogies testify to a recent genesis. A few generations may be missing from the accounts, but any significant gaps or omissions would undermine the genealogies’ authenticity and accuracy. If the written records are missing scores of generations, how could descendants, hundreds, let alone thousands of years later have any hope of identifying and verifying their ancestors?

Furthermore, the clear and careful record of each man’s length of life and the age he became a father indicates that the text is meant to be and is an accurate historical document. The original audience of Genesis, Israel in the wilderness, could have easily traced back their genealogies using those recorded in the Pentateuch.

God seems to have expected His people to study His Word this closely. Why else did He include so many genealogical tables? The Israelites’ calculations would have easily established a very young age for the earth. Even more, if God wanted His covenant children to believe the universe was billions of years old, He could have easily told them. He would have included longer genealogies and noted any major gaps.

3. The Sabbath Day

God grounds the Jewish sabbath day–after six work-days–in His own past action. Israel was given one rest-day after six work-days because God worked the same way (Exodus 20:8-11). This parallel becomes absurd if each Creation day was more than 24-hours or if major gaps separated each day.

4. Beliefs of the Biblical Authors 

Thirdly, a recent creation was assumed, embraced, and taught by the biblical writers. The Psalmist testifies that God merely spoke and creation was accomplished (Psalm 33:6, 9). When Malachi references Genesis He endorses the teaching of Genesis (Malachi 2:10).

The Apostle Paul cites Adam’s fall in Romans 5:12-21. Paul treats Adam as a historical man and the biological father of all mankind. Furthermore, Paul constructs his entire Hamartiology upon the historicity of Adam. If Paul had known the Genesis account to be mistaken, He ought to have clarified any confusion. If Paul was mistaken about creation then he might also be mistaken about the sin, judgment and righteousness he teaches.

Paul is not alone in linking the present problem of sin with Adam’s transgression; He is merely echoing the prophets (Isaiah 43:27; Hosea 6:7). The Epistles scathingly condemn false teachers and work to correct their errant beliefs (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Galatians 1:6-9; Titus 1:10-16; Jude 1:4; 1 John 4:1). If God knew reality to contradict common Jewish thought, He would have clarified through one of His prophets or apostles.

Part 2: https://modernpuritan.com/2014/03/15/what-happened-2/

Annoying Things in Worship Songs

A classic from Jeremy Pierce:

Here are some of the things I really hate in a worship song.

1. Too simplistic, banal, lacking in depth, shallow, doctrineless: Consider that one that just talks about unity among brothers that only mentions God in passing at the very end.

2. It’s so repetitive. I mean, come on, how many times can you repeat “His steadfast love endures forever” before you start thinking the song is going to go on forever? Examples: here and here.

3. For some songs, the focus is too much on instruments, and the sheer volume leads to its seeming more like a performance than worship and prevents quiet contemplation.

4. There might be too much emphasis on too intimate a relationship with God, using first-person singular pronouns like “me” and “I” or second-person pronouns like “you” instead of words like “we” and “God.” This fosters a spirit of individualism, and it generates an atmosphere of religious euphoria rather than actual worship of God. Worship should be about God, not about us. Or what about the ones that use physical language to describe God and our relationship with him? Can you really stomach the idea of tasting God?

5. Some songs have way too many words for anyone to learn.

6. It patterns its worship on experiences that not everyone in the congregation will be able to identify with. If you’re not in the frame of mind or don’t have the emotional state in question (e.g., a desperate longing for God), then what are you doing lying and singing it? Worship leaders who encourage that sort of thing are making their congregations sing falsehoods.

7. Then there’s that song with the line asking God not to take the Holy Spirit away, as if God would ever do that to a genuine believer.

8. Then there’s that song that basically says nothing except expressing negative emotions.

9. Finally, there are those songs that have like four or five lines that people just either have to repeat over and over again or just sing briefly and never get a chance to digest.

At this point I’m so outraged that people would pass this sort of thing off as worship that I’m almost inclined to give in to the people who think we shouldn’t sing anything but the psalms.

Oh, wait. . . .

-Jeremy Pierce, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2014/02/11/annoying-things-in-worship-songs/

In the Very Beginning

As Christians our guide for life, what we must believe and how we ought to live, is the Bible. If we follow Jesus we must embrace all that God reveals to us in His Word. Therefore we must believe the truth that God is the Creator.

Why can’t we just ignore what the Bible says about creation?

1. First God says He is the creator and we dare not reject what He affirms.

2. Secondly, if God is not the creator than He has lied to us and is untrustworthy.

3. Thirdly, if God is not the creator, We owe Him nothing and can disregard Him.

4. Finally, if God is not the creator, than Jesus’s sacrifice is not necessary, it did not pay for sin and it is irrational.

The rest of the Bible, it’s teaching and message, are rooted in the following truths about the creation of the universe.

God the Father created everything (1 Corinthians 8:6). God made everything through Jesus (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). The Holy Spirit was active in creation (Job 26:13; Genesis 1:1-2). God created by His breath, through speech. He breathed out creation (Psalm 33:6, 9; Psalm 148:5 Hebrews 11:3).

God predates creation, He existed before matter was created (Psalm 90:2); He had been king from before time began (Psalm 93:2). God created all matter. He made the universe (Genesis 1:1). The sun, moon and stars are his creation (Genesis 1:14-16; Genesis 8:3). God made the earth (Genesis 1:1). God created in six days and then rested (Genesis 1:1-32; 2:1-3; Exodus 31:17).

God intelligently created everything (Jeremiah 51:15; Psalm 104:24). Everything God created was perfect (Genesis 1:31). God did not create sin, sin entered the world from man (Romans 5:12; Genesis 3:6). God did not create death, death entered the world because of man’s sin (Romans 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:21)

Everything was created for God (Colossians 1:16) and to bring Him glory, yet God also created the earth for man’s habitation, man’s use, and filled it with animals for his food (Isaiah 45:18; Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1-3)

God created man in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are made like God; who we are reflects (in a lesser way) who He is. God created all men from one race and all are equal before Him (Acts 17:26). God created man male and female (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 5:2, Mark 10:6) thus our genders and gender roles come from Him.

Everything exists today because God continues to uphold it all (Colossians 1:17). God controls all the forces of nature (Psalm 147:18; Job 36:32; 37:15; Mark 4:35-41). God controls both good and bad (Isaiah 45:7); He governs all. Creation testifies of God’s eternal power, divine nature, wisdom and glory (Romans 1:20: Psalm 19:1).

We must accept God as Creator by faith (Hebrews 11:3). God should be praised because He is the creator (Revelation 4:11). God will create a new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17) which will be free of the curse that now afflicts this world (Revelation 22:3).

Practical and Helpful Thoughts About Personal Devotions

George Müller, a man of deep and earnest prayer, gives some helpful advice on personal devotions and advice for time spent alone with God.

He found that “the most important thing was to concentrate on first reading the Bible [and] meditating on the chosen portion:

That thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by the means of the Word of God, whilst meditating upon it, my heart might be brought into [conscious or experienced] communion with the Lord….

The first thing I did (early in the morning), after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was, to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my soul.

The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer….

With this mode I have likewise combined the being out in the open air for an hour, an hour and a half, or two hours before breakfast, walking about in the fields, and in the summer sitting for a while on little [benches], if I find it too much to walk all the time.

I find it very beneficial to my health to walk thus for meditation before breakfast, and am now so in the habit of using up the time for that purpose, that when I get in the open air, I generally take out a New Testament of good-sized type, which I carry with me for that purpose, besides my Bible: and I find that I can profitably spend my time in the open air, which formerly was not the case for want of habit….

The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this. Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time….

But what was the result?

I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc; and often, having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then really began to pray.

I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into [conscious or experienced] fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.

It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point.”

– George Müller, as recorded in Delighted in God by Roger Steer (Christian Focus Publications, 1997), 91-92.

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978)

PREFACE

The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.

The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, making clear our understanding of it and warning against its denial. We are persuaded that to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God’s own Word which marks true Christian faith. We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstanding of this doctrine in the world at large.

This Statement consists of three parts: a Summary Statement, Articles of Affirmation and Denial, and an accompanying Exposition, which is not included here. It has been prepared in the course of a three-day consultation in Chicago. Those who signed the Summary Statement and the Articles wish to affirm their own conviction as to the inerrancy of Scripture and to encourage and challenge one another and all Christians to growing appreciation and understanding of this doctrine. We acknowledge the limitations of a document prepared in a brief, intensive conference and do not propose that this Statement be given creedal weight. Yet we rejoice in the deepening of our own convictions through our discussions together, and we pray that the Statement we signed may be used to the glory of our God toward a new reformation of the Church in its faith, life, and mission.

We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we purpose by God’s grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.

We invite response to this Statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help which enables us to strengthen this testimony to God’s Word we shall be grateful.

(continued tomorrow)

What is really behind the boycott of Chick-fil-A

by Trevin Wax

If you’re like me, you’re weary of the excessive politicization of nearly everything in American culture.

Can’t we just enjoy Oreo cookies without making a statement about gay rights? Or savor a chicken sandwich without fear of being labeled a hater or homophobe?

Though I’m weary of our culture’s tendency to politicize everything, I believe this Chick-fil-A boycott has revealed some fault lines in our culture that will lead to increasing pressure upon Christians who uphold the sexual ethic described in the New Testament. Furthermore, in listening to the mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, it’s clear to me that – political posturing aside – this discussion may not be about the alleged homophobia of Chick-fil-A’s president but the actual Christophobia of the leaders of the cultural elite.

Christophobia? Isn’t that a strong word? Yes, it is. So let’s define our terms.

First, let’s define homophobia. According to the Anti-Defamation League, homophobia is “the hatred or fear of homosexuals – that is, lesbians and gay men – sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility.”

Consider the comments made by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy that triggered this escapade:

“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

That’s it. Cathy said, basically, “We believe in the traditional family.” In context, it appears he was speaking primarily about divorce. (What’s next? A sit-in protest led by divorcees?) But this was enough to bring down the wrath of gay-rights advocates upon Cathy and the company.

Though Chick-fil-A hires homosexuals and serves homosexuals (“with pleasure,” no doubt), the company and its president were suddenly labeled “homophobic” and “anti-gay” for articulating the traditional vision for marriage that has been the norm for thousands of years. If the word homophobic has any meaning, then we should reserve it for egregious offenses against homosexuals – not throw the label on anyone who has a conviction about what marriage is.

Now let’s define Christophobia. It is “anti-Christian sentiment expressed as opposition to Christians, the Christian religion, or the practice of Christianity.” When the mayors of prominent U.S. cities in the north and west told Chick-fil-A they would not be welcome there, they were making a statement that goes beyond one’s position on gay rights. These remarks were an example of social ostracism – not just toward those who hold to traditional views on marriage but especially Christians who hold these views and seek to practice their religion accordingly.

Why do I think they were singling out Christians? Why would this be an example of Christophobia?

Consider a different scenario. What if Dan Cathy were a Muslim? What if he had been a Muslim speaking to an Islamic news organization when he said something about marriage and family? Would there have been an outcry against his organization? It’s doubtful. I can’t imagine Rahm Emanuel taking on a prominent, well-respected Muslim businessman, no matter what he would say about marriage and sexuality. (Perhaps that’s why Emanuel has no problem partnering with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan – an outspoken critic of gay marriage – in a crime-reducing initiative.)

And therein lies the discrimination. Do you see the double standard? Those who are problematic, those who must be shut down and made to feel unwelcome, are not really the people who believe in traditional marriage but conservative Christians who seek to practice the tenets of their faith in the public sphere.

What we are seeing today is a massive cultural shift that permits leaders to label Christians as intolerant and bigoted simply for expressing their views about how society should function. But strangely enough, the same social ostracism and cultural condescension are not extended to Muslims and faithful adherents to other religions. No, the prejudice appears to be directed toward Christians who dare to speak publicly about their deeply held religious convictions.

That’s why, at the end of the day, this conversation isn’t really about marriage, gay rights, or restaurant permits. It’s not about the cultural divide between north and south, liberal and conservative.

It’s about Jesus. It’s about the radical sexual ethic He put forth in His teaching – a moral zealousness that hits our current culture’s sexual permissiveness head-on. And it’s about His forgiveness offered to all sexual sinners, so long as we agree with Jesus about our sin and embrace Him instead.

As weary as we may be of the culture wars, the Chick-fil-A controversy is a harbinger of further ostracism to come. In the United States, the words of Jesus are coming to pass for those who hold tightly to His vision of sexuality: You will be hated because of Me. 

So how should we respond? We’ve got to go beyond boycotts and political statements and feigned offense at perceived persecution. We’re called to love those who ostracize us, not boycott back. So let’s trumpet the message that Jesus is for all kinds of sinners, from the self-righteous deacon to the promiscuous transsexual, no matter what kind of vitriol comes our way.

The world tells homosexuals, “It gets better.” The church tells homosexuals, “Jesus is better.”

And that is why this boycott is really about Him.”

-Trevin Wax,  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2012/08/01/why-the-chick-fil-a-boycott-is-really-about-jesus/

Is It Ever Right to Disobey the Government?

Excellent post from the Gospel Coalition by Mark Coppenger:

“Recently, Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) heaped contempt upon five ministers called to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The men were there to raise religious liberty concerns over the Health and Human Services Department’s policy of forcing institutions to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients to their employees, even when the institutions found these options morally objectionable. Though Romans Catholics were particularly stung by this policy, four other members of the clergy—two Baptists, a Lutheran, and a Jew—came as co-belligerents for the cause of freedom of conscience.

Connolly’s fulminations included the charge that they were being used for “shameful” acts of political demagoguery. He mocked their speaking “as if people are going to jail over this. Shame! Everybody knows that’s not true.”

Actually, a lot of people know that it may well be true, and American Christians are preparing for the day when the state will no longer tolerate their “obstructionism,” their “phobias,” and their “offensive utterances.” Thus a half million believers have already signed the 2009 Manhattan Declaration, which says, in part,

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

If this means jail time over refusal to pay fines, so be it. Of course, the specter of thousands of esteemed ministers in holding cells, getting rap sheets, may cause the commissars to go wobbly and back off for fear of the political repercussions.

Fuss Over Nothing?

Could Connolly be right about this being an overheated tempest in a teapot? After all,Americais noIranorSaudi Arabia, where Christian conversion and gospel preaching land you in prison, and even the grave. We’re a liberal democracy, a pillar of Western civilization, with its constitutive freedom of conscience.

But that status is tenuous. Classic liberalism (following Adam Smith and Edmund Burke, not Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid) is dying in the mainline Western nations as paternalists, cultural relativists, sensitivity police, and decadence-normalizers move in with their speech and tax codes to cow the faithful.

Åke Green and Daniel Scot are two cases in point. Green, a Swedish Pentecostal pastor on the littleislandofOland, was sentenced to a month in jail for “hate speech” and “agitation against an ethnic group” for preaching a sermon against homosexuality. Fortunately, the Swedish Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling.

Scot, a math professor and Assembly of God minister, had fled Pakistan for the safety of Australia, only to be convicted of “vilifying” Islam when he spoke in churches, explaining the roots of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was ordered to purchase tens of thousands of dollars in ads inMelbournepapers, apologizing to Muslims. He refused, at great legal expense, and the case went to the Australian Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor. And Americans of biblical conviction are also beginning to feel the heat. For instance, a Methodist retreat center inNew Jerseylost its tax-exempt status for excluding same-sex marriage ceremonies from its grounds.

When Should We Take a Stand?

Of course, this raises the question of when it is appropriate to take a stand, and when it is better to simply retire from the field, as did Catholic Charities in Massachusetts, when it stopped its adoption ministry because the law said it could not discriminate against same-sex households. After all, obedience to the law is the default position for Christians. That’s the teaching of Romans 13:1-7, which Paul wrote when the government was in many ways unsavory. But this is not an absolute duty, for we rightly celebrate the stand of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 and Peter and John’s defiance in Acts 4:1-21, where they ignored an order to stop preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name.

Still, we have to avoid the temptation to become hypersensitive to every affront to our scruples. I may be incensed over where some of my tax money is going, but I shouldn’t turn my back on the IRS in protest. And I may dislike the order to move my abortion protest across the street from a “clinic,” but I don’t need to provoke a trip in the paddy wagon by ignoring the mandated buffer zone.

So where do we draw the line?

We can certainly follow Peter and Andrew in insisting that our gospel preaching is inviolate. And there are moral outrages that no men of conscience could countenance, such as an order by Nazis to turn in Jews for transport to the death camps. But sometimes, the outrage is more particularly anti-Christian, as when 17th-century Japanese were required to show their disrespect for the faith by stepping on a tile bearing the image of Jesus (fumi-e) or face torture and death.

In contrast, in the modern West, speech codes and their supporting humiliations and fines are the bludgeons of choice. But in either case, believers must not flinch from speaking the truth in love, whatever the cost.

What shall we say, then, of that gray area where we’re not murdered or muzzled but merely mugged? I suggest we consider our witness, whether we might be bringing glory or embarrassment to God. For comparison, we might consider our take on other faiths’ possible complaints of ill treatment. For instance, I think we would rally to the side of Muslims forced to serve pork in their rescue mission. Government pressure at this point would be gratuitously offensive, whatever the rationale—whether a recent study placing pork at the base of the food-guide pyramid or the need to sustain the nation’s pork farmers by broad purchase and distribution of their product.

But when an American Muslim woman (or her husband) insists that she wear a niqab for her driver’s license photo (not an issue inSaudi Arabia), then popular sentiment rightly shifts to the government’s side, which counts an ID showing only the eyes an absurdity. By extension, we should reflect on how reasonable or absurd our own complaint might be.

Should Even Unreasonable Religious Beliefs Be Protected?

Of course, the public may not “get it” the first time through. We may need to strive mightily to make our point that a certain religious conviction or principle is crucial to us and that when the state slights our conscience, it behaves badly. Such was the burden on the Miami-area Santeria, the cult sacrificing chickens in their worship. Defenders did well to note that their killings were humane and that there was already a lot of bird “sacrifice” in the land, whether by KFC or the members of Ducks Unlimited.

Some beliefs, though, are not only curious, but dangerous: a Jehovah’s Witness refusing a C-section meant to save her unborn child because she objects to the accompanying blood transfusion; a Christian Science couple declining treatment for their son’s bowel obstruction that could rupture and cause death from peritonitis; a Christian school proudly declaring itself exempt from the general fire code. But the government can be just as unreasonable in pressing its will upon the faithful.

As we make our case for liberty, we need to show our logic, expose the illogicality of our foes, link arms with co-belligerents, exhibit dignity in the face of indignities, and make it very clear that there are limits to our flexibility.

The five ministers who testified before the House committee—Meir Soloveichik, Matthew Harrison, Craig Mitchell, William Lori, and Ben Mitchell—served us well in this regard. But the public debate continues, and it may well happen that Representative Connolly and his ilk will not grasp the gravity of the situation until the jail doors slam on dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of clergy.”

-Mark Coppenger is professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the seminary’s Nashville extension. He also serves on the editorial team for two online resources, Kairos Journal and BibleMesh. He has a PhD in philosophy from Vanderbilt and an MDiv from Southwestern. His third book, Moral Apologetics, was published in October 2011.
Posted here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/03/14/when-should-christians-engage-in-civil-disobedience/
italics added

Teach Children the Bible Is Not About Them

Here’s a great article from Sally Lloyd-Jones looking at how we should teach our children about God through how we teach the Bible.  Check it out at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/02/21/teach-children-the-bible-is-not-about-them/

 “When I go into churches and speak to children I ask them two questions:

First, How many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them.

And second, How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you? They look around and again raise their hands.

These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible stories and probably all the right answers, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all.

They have missed what the Bible is all about.

They are children like I once was.

As a child, even though I was a Christian, I grew up thinking the Bible was filled with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn’t love you) and with heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn’t love you).

I tried to be good. I really did. I was quite good at being good. But however hard I tried, I couldn’t keep the rules all the times so I knew God must not be pleased with me.

And I certainly couldn’t ever be as brave as Daniel. I remember being tormented by that Sunday school chorus “Dare to Be a Daniel” because, hard as I tried to imagine myself daring to be a Daniel, being thrown to lions and not minding . . . who was I kidding? I knew I’d be terrified out of my skull.

How could God ever love me?

I was sure he couldn’t because I wasn’t doing it right.

Breaking Spells

One Sunday, not long ago, I was reading the story of “Daniel and the Scary Sleepover” from The Jesus Storybook Bible to some 6-year-olds during a Sunday school lesson. One little girl in particular was sitting so close to me she was almost in my lap. Her face was bright and eager as she listened to the story, utterly captivated. She could hardly keep on the ground and kept kneeling up to get closer to the story.

At the end of the story there were no other teachers around, and I panicked and went into automatic pilot and heard myself—to my horror—asking, “And so what can we learn from Daniel about how God wants us to live?”

And as I said those words it was as if I had literally laid a huge load on that little girl. Like I broke some spell. She crumpled right in front of me, physically slumping and bowing her head. I will never forget it.

It is a picture of what happens to a child when we turn a story into a moral lesson.

When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done!

When we tie up the story in a nice neat little package, and answer all the questions, we leave no room for mystery. Or discovery. We leave no room for the child. No room for God.

And that’s why I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible. So children could know what I didn’t:

1. That the Bible isn’t mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

2. That the Bible is most of all a story—the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

3. That—in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him—God won’t ever stop loving his children . . . with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

4. That the Bible, in short, is a Story—not a Rule Book—and there is only one Hero in the Story.

I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible so children could meet the Hero in its pages. And become part of His Magnificent Story.

Because rules don’t change you.

But a Story—God’s Story—can.

**********

Editors’ Note: The new Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sam Shammas contains 44 lessons revealing how Jesus is the center of each Bible story and how every story whispers his name. It includes activities, notes for teachers based on material from Timothy Keller, memory verses, handouts for children, a hardcover copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible, and three audio CDs containing David Suchet’s reading.”

Depression = Low Serotonin: Medical Fact or Myth

Today at the Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson posted a great article on depression and the use of drugs. Jesse’s conclusions are very helpful; it is unwise for a pastor to quibble with medical professionals. Nevertheless, these admissions from medical experts are startling. Quoted below are the conclusions of NPR’s Correspondent Alix Spiegel. Read Jesse’s article here:  http://thecripplegate.com/depression-and-serotonin/

“So why are so many people still talking about low serotonin causing depression?

Frazer says it’s probably because it has had, and continues to have, important cultural uses. For one, he says, by initially framing the problem as a deficiency — something that needed to be returned to normal — patients felt more comfortable taking a drug.

“If there was this biological reason for them being depressed, some deficiency that the drug was correcting,” Frazer says, then taking a drug was OK. “They had a chemical imbalance and the drug was correcting that imbalance.” In fact, he says, the story enables many people to come out of the closet about being depressed, which he views as a good thing.

Still, there’s no question that the story also has downsides. Describing the problem exclusively in biological terms has convinced many people to take antidepressants when other therapies — like talk therapy — can work just as well.

One critic I talked to said the serotonin story distracted researchers from looking for other causes of depression. But Delgado agrees with Frazer and says the story has some benefits. He points out that years of research have demonstrated that uncertainty itself can be harmful to people — which is why, he says, clear, simple explanations are so very important.
“When you feel that you understand it, a lot of the stress levels dramatically are reduced,” he says. “So stress, hormones and a lot of biological factors change.”

Unfortunately, the real story is complicated and, in a way, not all that reassuring. Researchers don’t really know what causes depression. They’re making progress, but they don’t know. That’s the real story.”

Read full post here: http://thecripplegate.com/depression-and-serotonin/