Saturday, June 22, 2024

"Arsenokoitais" (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.)

I'm re-posting this for some friends. In response to this. The fallacy in this argument is that New Testament scholars pay far less attention to how a Greek word was translated historically (in various versions of the Bible) then how the word was understood in its first century context. We study words in their original context so as to understand their meaning. How, e.g., a particular German Bible translates a word is largely irrelevant. Or, how the King James translates a word is largely irrelevant to the scholarly discussion of the meaning of the text.

The intra-Christian discussion on the acceptability of same-sex marriage inevitably goes to the meaning of the word arsenokoitais. Someone asked me about this, again, recently. It is, arguably, the intra-Christian dialogical issue. Because Jesus-followers value highly the biblical text. (Note: everyone has their sacred authoritative texts, even atheists. For Jesus-followers this means the words and ideas of Jesus.)

Note: David Gushee, in Changing Our Mind, has a chapter called "Two Odd Little Words." The two "odd little words" are arsenokoites and malakoi. Note how Gushee spins the discussion by the chapter heading he uses. His conclusion is that these are "two obscure Greek words whose uncertain translation renders use of them for the LGBTQ issue problematic." (p. 74)  (Progressivist Christian Colby Martin, in an act of ad hominem denigration, calls them two "goofy" words. See my book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity, p. 163. For a broader discussion see pp. 163 - 168.)

Yes, I read the entire chapter in Gushee. No, I have not changed my mind about these two words. Nor have Michael Brown, N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Craig Keener, D. A. Carson, Andreas Kostenberger, Robert Gagnon, et. al. Precisely because, for four decades of studying the "two odd little words," I remain with these scholars. These two words - like it or not - disaffirm same-sex sexual relationships. Because I believe that, and books like Gushee's are unconvincing to me, I continue to affirm this: marriage is between and man and a woman. It would be inauthentic for me to say otherwise.


See also Greg Johnson, Still Time to Care. Especially chapters 14 and 15, where Johnson goes in-depth on arsenokoitais and malakoi, plus he digs into hermeneutical issues.


***

We read in 1 Tim. 1:9-11:

9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

The Greek word translated here as "homosexuality" is arsenokoitais (ἀρσενοκοίταις). In the Christian theological discussion about homosexuality there is debate over the meaning of this word. This sends me running after commentaries and scholarly studies about this term. Here's what four of my most admired New Testament scholars say. But first, a few remarks. (Arguably the most thorough study of arsenokoitais is in Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, pp. 387 ff.)

1. My interest is: What does the biblical text say. My interest is not: What would I like the biblical text to say. I'll admit to often discovering things I wish the text did not say because, for example, it severely confronts or challenges me. So be it. This is not always easy. I wrestle with the biblical text every week preparing for Sunday mornings. Note also: My core interest is not what various Bible translations say (KJV, NIV, etc.). No New Testament scholar looks to (in the sense of dependence) on translations of the Bible, but to the original languages, and the socio-cultural, socio-rhetorical context.

2. It's easy to find persons who support what one might like the text to say. I know there are scholars with contrary opinions. What, then, shall I do? My answer: look to scholars I have found credible over the years. I am not always in agreement with them. But when they speak, I am listening.

3. I also read scholars I admire who argue against what I think the text says. (See, e.g., the Gagnon-Via book below.) One must read the counter-arguments to one's position.

4. Remember that most (nearly all) words are polysemous; i.e., they have multiple meanings. For example, 'bear' can mean 1) to carry (a load); 2) to endure; 3) an animal (noun); et. al. That in itself does not make the word 'bear' exceptionally "tricky," or any "trickier" than translating a word like arsenokaitais.

5. I expect this discussion will only interest those who embrace Jesus and follow after him. For all of us in this camp, issues like this are important. And, of course, there's a whole lot more to following after Jesus than this issue. Over the years I have dialogued with many homosexually oriented Jesus-followers who want to know what the text says, more than what do others think it says. That, too, has always been my passion.

6. And... homophobia is a sin. Can we discuss, in love? 

Here we go...


Ben Witherington

"The word [arsenokoites] literally and graphically refers to a male copulator (cf. Sib. Or. 2:73; Greek Anthology 9.686), a man who has intercourse with another man... It is true that this term can refer to a pederast (an older man who has sex with a younger man or a youth), but the term is not a technical term for a pederast; rather, it includes consenting adult males who have sexual relationships in this manner, as well as any other form of male-to-male intercourse." (Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 198)   

Some want arsenokoitais to mean "pederasty." Witherington thinks that, while it can, in the Pauline context this is not what it means. Remember: words are polysemous, having mutliple context-dependent meanings.


Andreas Kostenberger

Kostenberger has a lengthy section on arsenokoitas in God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (with David Jones). After summarizing various views on the meaning of arsenokoitas, Kostenberger concludes:
  1. "In light of the discussion of teaching in the Old Testament and the book of Romans above, it appears very unlikely that what is universally condemned in the Hebrew scriptures might, in New Testament times as well as ours, be acceptable." Arsenokoitas most likely refers to "the general practice of homosexuality."
  2. "It appears like that the term arsenokoitas, which does not seem to appear in the extant literature prior to the present reference, was coined by Paul or someone esle in Hellenistic Judaism from the Levitical prohibition against males "lying or sleeping with males" (Lev. 18:22...). This suggests that the term is broad and general in nature and encompasses homosexuality as a whole rather than merely specific aberrant subsets  of homosexual behavior." This is important since some want to make arsenokoitas refer specifically to pederasty.
  3. The argument that Paul's use of arsenokoitas refers to pederasty falls short on six counts: a) There was a clear and unambiguous word for pederasty, the term paiderastes; b) "The attempt to limit Paul's condemnation to pederasty... is contradicted by Paul's reference to the male partners' mutual desire for one another in Romans 1:27"; c) "In the same passage in Romans 1:26, Paul also condemns lesbian sex, which did not involve children, so that an appeal to pederasty does not adequately account for the prohibition of same-sex relations in this passage.";  d) "Even if (for argument's sake) Paul were to censure only pederasty in the passages under consideration, this would still not mean that, as a Scripture-abiding Jew, he would have approved of homosexuality as such. Quite the contrary. In contrast to the surrounding Greco-Roman world (which generally accepted homosexual acts). Hellenistic Jewish texts universally condemn homosexuality and treat it (together with idolatry) as the most egregious example of Gentile moral depravity."; e) "Not only is Paul's view of homosexuality as contrary to nature in keeping with the foundational creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2, but it is also illumined by prevailing views of homosexuality in contemporary Greco-Roman culture." (See the entire text for much more on this); and f) "Ancient sources do not support the idea that homosexuality was defined exclusively in terms of homosexual acts but not orientation." Paul refers to both. Some scholars erect a false dichotomy between the two, and then use the false dichotomy to reason that the concept of "homosexuality" has changed, thus arsenokoitas should not be translated as "homosexuals."
For "these and many other reasons" Kostenberger concludes that attempts to limit arsenokoitas to "a narrower subset of aberrant homosexual behavior must be judged unconvincing."



Note: I think Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality is an important text in the broader discussion. 

Craig Keener

"Scholars have disputed the meaning of the term translated "homosexuals," but it seems to mean those who engage in homosexual acts, which were a common feature of Greek male life in antiquity." (Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 464) 

Michael Brown

Brown's chapter on these "two odd little words" is in his book Can You Be Gay and Christian? Brown did his PhD in ancient and Semitic languages at New York University. (Note: I did my PhD in philosophical theology at Northwestern University. My dissertation was on the semantics of metaphorical language as referential to religious experience.)


See Bennett's A War of Loves, Appendix 1.

Robert Gagnon

An important text to read, for any who are interested, is Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, by NT scholars Robert Gagnon and Dan Via. Note that while Via takes the pro-gay marriage stance he agrees with Gagnon that if one simply took the biblical texts one could not arrive at that conclusion.

One result of reading this book is that I picked up Gagnon's massive study The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.  

Here are some reviews of Gagnon's book. It's important to see these lest we think that Gagnon is just some uneducated spin-meister trying to force his own opinion down our throats.

Here are some reviews of Gagnon's book:

"...In its learnedness, [Gagnon's] book will...be in the vanguard of its position and cannot be ignored...." -- Martti Nissinen, University of Helsinki, and author of Homoeroticism in the Biblical World (From the Jacket Flap)

"...the fullest and best presentation of the conservative position....expressing the case same-sex intercourse sympathetically and convincingly." -- I. Howard Marshall, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, University of Aberdeen, Scotland (Blurb Inside Book)

"...the most thorough examination of the scriptural and theological...perspectives on same-sex relations....a tour de force." -- Marion L. Soards, Professor of New Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (From Jacket Flap)

"Gagnon has offered a learned, judicious, and comprehensive examination of the biblical testimony....fair and compassionate...a major resource...." -- Brevard S. Childs, Sterling Professor of Divinity (Hebrew Bible), Emeritus, Yale Divinity School (From Inside Book)

"Gagnon's book is an extremely valuable contribution to the current debate....I recommend this book wholeheartedly." -- C. E. B. Cranfield, Professor of Theology (New Testament), Emeritus, University of Durham (From Inside Book)

"Gagnon's incisive logic, prudent judgment, and exhaustive research should make this book a dominant voice in the contemporary debate." -- Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P., Professor of New Testament, Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem (From the Back Cover)

"I believe that this volume will become a classic in the ongoing discussion of the church's...response to homosexuality." -- Duane F. Watson, Professor of New Testament, Malone College (From Inside Book)

"I know of no comparable study of the texts and interpretive debates that surround homosexual behavior." -- Max L. Stackhouse, Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary (From the Jacket Flap)

"No Christian concerned with homosexuality can afford to ignore this book." -- John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford (From the Back Cover)

"This is a brilliant, original, and highly important work,...indispensable even for those who disagree with the author." -- James Barr, Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University (From the Back Cover) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Friday, June 21, 2024

People Who Meditate on God-thoughts Become People of Substance

                               
                         (A piece of hard cinnamon toast and a cup of hot chocolate for breakfast)


When I was a youth pastor in the 70s at First Baptist Church of Joliet, Illinois, we had a big kid named Dan, who one day boasted, "I can put an entire Big Mac in my mouth and swallow it whole." We said "No way!!!" So, we drove to McDonald's and bought a Big Mac for Dan.

Was this an idle boast because he wanted a free meal? Dan - who was a football player at Joliet Central H.S. - inserted the Big Mac in his mouth. That was the last we saw of it. I am certain Dan saw more of it later than he wanted. If you don't take small bits and chew your food it will not get assimilated to your physical body.


The Psalmist wrote, "Lord I love your law. I meditate on it day and night." (Psalm 119:97) Meditation is a slow-cooker, not a microwave. Meditation is like a cow chewing its cud, not a kid inhaling a Big Mac. Meditation on God-thoughts allows the Spirit to assimilate them to your spirit, and even to your physical body. This
 results in a heart that is liberated from the cares and preoccupations of one's daily business.

To meditate on God's thoughts in Scripture is to be self-exegeted by Scripture. Bible "study" can keep God's thoughts at an objective distance. Meditative Scripture reading is my spirit simmering in the flavors and spices of the mind of Christ. As I am studied by Scripture I am empowered by the Spirit.


Meditative praying produces inner change. I must choose this day what my meditation shall be, for so shall the shape of my heart be formed. 

Tim Keller writes:

"Persons who meditate become people of substance who have thought things out and have deep convictions, who can explain difficult concepts in simple language, and who have good reasons behind everything they do. Many people do not meditate. They skim everything, picking and choosing on impulse, having no thought-out reasons for their behavior. Following whims, they live shallow lives."

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

DECLARATIONS OF HOPE




On Sunday mornings we call the kids to come forward, and sit on the steps facing the congregation. We lay hands on their heads and  pray God's blessings over them.

On one of these mornings I asked the kids to share what God has been doing in them. One of our little boys spoke into the microphone and said, "This is the greatest day of my life!"
This child's statement stuck with me. It reminded me of a card I sometimes carry with me. The words apply to you, too. It is no accident that you are alive, in this time, in this place, "for such a time as this."

This truth brings great hope.



***
DECLARATIONS of HOPE (adapted from Steve Backlund)

  • Today is the day that God is going to show off His favor on me.
  • I speak to any worry, stress, or anxiety, and I say you cannot stay. Peace reigns in this temple.
  • There is nothing I am facing that Scripture cannot speak into.
  • I am not who my past experience says I am; I am who God says I am.
  • Today is the day of my breakthrough — I am free!
  • Because I trust in God, I am kept in perfect peace.
  • My hope, my finances, my strategies, and my partnerships with others are causing great positive change in lives and nations.
  • Tomorrow is going to be one of the best days of my life.
  • I will wake up with strong faith, strong love, and strong hope in my heart.
  • My past prayers will be working mightily today in every situation that concerns me.
  • As I attach faith to what I am hearing, He will do far more than I could ever hope or imagine.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Influence: Like Father, Like Child

Influence is greater than numbers. The question is not, "How big is your church?" The real question is, "How is your church's influence?"

You could be twelve, and salt the world with the good news of the Kingdom. You could be twelve hundred, and be an audience inside a saltshaker.

How is your influence going? Which way is it going? Because of you, are people better, or worse?

Every father influences his children, for worse, or for better. My father influenced me for better. 

I remember seeing dad read his Bible, usually in the evening before he went to bed. Dad read his Bible so much that his thumb wore through the leather cover. I have it now. Here it is.





I received my own leather-covered Bible when I was confirmed in our Lutheran Church. I was twelve years old. My mother put my Bible somewhere - I didn't know where and I did not care. I never picked it up and read it.

Until I was 21. That's when Jesus rescued me out of a deep enslavement to evil. My life began to change for the better! And, I needed a Bible.


I drove to my parents' home. I asked, "Mom, do you know where my Bible is?"


She got it for me. I began to read. And read. I wore the leather out on it so much that the cover finally broke off. I still have this Bible. Here it is.





Like father, like child, right?

As the apostle Paul wrote:


Follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ.

1 Cor. 11:1

And,

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters,
and just as you have us as a model,
keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

Philippians 3:17


Friday, June 14, 2024

It Is Irrational and Unloving to Affirm All Beliefs

Ann Arbor

(I'm reposting this for someone.)

I was asked the question, "Would a Muslim be welcome in your church?"

My answer was, "Yes!"

And Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists are welcome, too.

I welcome all of them, as Jesus does the same. I would love to have them come. (I have had atheists come to Redeemer, who are mostly students who have been in my MCCC philosophy classes. A few of them have converted from atheism to theism, and then to Christianity.)

I say yes and amen to loving and welcoming all kinds of people.

Does this mean I affirm all the beliefs of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists? Of course not. No one can logically (coherently) affirm contradictory beliefs. Consider, for example, the following three mutually exclusive beliefs.

1) God does not exist (atheism, and Buddhism)
2) There are 330,000,000 gods (Hinduism).
3) There is only one God (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

It is not possible to say "true" to these three beliefs, held simultaneously.

What about John Lennon's song "Imagine?" It's one of the more non-affirming, exclusionary songs I've heard. "I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one." But..   this imaginary "oneness" involves the eradication of religion - "and no religion too." Am I just imagining, or am I being marginalized? (Ask four billion religious people.)

 To believe something is, ipso facto, to deny many things. Beliefs, by nature, embrace and exclude. 
No one can affirm all the various beliefs [truth-claims] of the world's religions.

Going further, No one person affirms all the beliefs of any other person. The fact that I, or you, do not affirm the beliefs of someone else should not be shocking. Anyone who claims to affirm someone else's entire belief system is to be dismissed as unbelievable.

I had a philosophy student who believed The earth is flat. I liked him, but did not affirm his belief. Because his belief was wrong. ("Right and wrong" lie outside science, and and find their place in the arenas of philosophy and religion. See, e.g., atheist Stephen Jay Gould's "NOMA" principle.)

In the Jesus worldview, I welcome and love all people. I do not (because it cannot be done, epistemically) affirm all the beliefs of people. It is irrational to expect that I should do so. 

It is not unloving to say, "I think you are wrong about that." It is unloving, because untruthful, to treat people as if our different beliefs are harmonious.

(See "Welcoming and Sometimes Disaffirming." I just want to keep this ball in play.)




Thursday, June 13, 2024

Presence-Driven Pastors Practice A.S.L.O.

Michigan flowers

Here's a clip from my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.


Out of my desire to be a good leader for Christ, I have read many books on leadership. Some of them had titles like this: Fifty Keys to Leadership.[1] To be a great leader, I needed to keep these principles always before me. Plus, I needed to assimilate twenty-five keys to motivating people, twenty-five more keys to a sound business plan, read the top twenty-five classics on “success,” and evaluate it all by using 25 Need-to-Know Performance Indicators.[2] In addition, I read John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader,[3] and then The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.[4]

Now, decades later, I don’t remember most of these keys and qualities. But I do remember coming to a point where I thought, for a brief moment, “I was wrong. Pastoral leadership is rocket science!”

As I read the story of Jesus, I see his leadership keys and indicators coming down to one thing: Follow me. “My sheep,” said Jesus the Greatest of Leaders, “hear my voice, and follow.”

This was something even the unschooled, idiot disciples could do.[5] Hear the voice of Jesus. Follow. That is what I think pastoral leadership comes down to.

What about the “indispensable qualities” and the “irrefutable laws?” I see them as the inevitable fruit of an abiding life. That is, once the abiding life is engaged in, transformation into Christlike qualities happens, like blueberries on a blueberry bush. You become, inexorably, a servant, a discerner, an influencer, and so on, all because of Christ, the hope of glory, in you.

Leading a Presence-Driven Church cannot be rocket science, though it might sometimes feel like you have been tied to a rocket and launched. Presence-Driven Leaders simply do this:

1.    Abide in Christ
2.    Saturate in the Scriptures
3.    Listen (Discern God’s voice)
4.    Obey

To lead a Presence-Driven Church, a pastor follows A.S.L.O. – Abide, Saturate, Listen, Obey.



[1] This is not, as far as I know, an actual book.
[2] By Bernard Marr.
[3] One of the greatest, most impactful sermons I ever heard was by John Maxwell at a Promise Keepers conference.
[4] Both by John  Maxwell.
[5] Acts 4:13 says, When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. “Unschooled” is the Greek word agrammatoi; “ordinary” is idiotai.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

2007 - My First Visit to Payne Theological Seminary



(The first time I taught at Payne Theological Seminary was in 2007. What a blessing for me to continue to teach there. Here is a post from my first Payne experience.)

On Thursday Linda and I got up at 5 AM and traveled 200 miles south to Wilberforce, Ohio, and Payne Theological Seminary. PTS is connected to Wilberforce University. WU's website says this: "Wilberforce University is a unique institution located in a state rich in America's private college tradition. Founded prior to the end of slavery in 1856, it is the nation's oldest, private African-American university. For 147 years WU has, through sheer force of will, provided young African-American students with a solid educational experience."

PTS's dynamic president, Dr. Leah Fitchue, is a friend of mine. She invited me to speak and teach part of a week-long seminary class called "Transformational Leadership." The other class teachers were Dr. James Cone of Union Theological Seminary and Dr. Deotis Roberts of Howard University. My role was to wrap up the class by teaching on Personal Transformation: How God Changes Lives. I did this Thursday from 9 AM to 12:30 PM. My class was held on the campus of Wilberforce U.

Thirty-five seminary students were in my class. Most were pastors and leaders in the A.M.E. church (African Episcopal Methodist). One student was from Sierra Leone, and another was from Ghana.

I structured my 3 1/2-hour block like this:

9 - 9:45 - Introduction; meet the students; share basics of how God changes lives

9:45 - 10:45 - I sent the students out to pray for 45 minutes. I explained to them how I wanted them to do this. My basic instructions are: go alone to a quiet place to meet, just you and God; use Psalm 23 to meditate on; when your mind wanders, write down where it wanders to (the mind always wanders to something like a burden); when God speaks to you, write it down; After 45 minutes, return to class.

10:45 - 11:45 - Meet in small groups, Share what God said to you. Someone take notes on the group sharing. Then, group recorders share with all of us. I comment on what I hear God saying to the people.

11:45 - 12:30 - I taught the elements of Personal Transformation. They are:

1. Recognize how needy you are
2. Realize the magnitude of the needed transformation (into Christlikeness)
3. Understand that only God can effect the needed transformation
4. Get into the presence of God
5. Understand what it means to dwell in God's presence
6. The level of personal transformation is: "the deep waters of the heart" (Proverbs 20:5)
7. God deconstructs the false self
8. The essential attitude is: humility ("Unless you humble yourself like a little child you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" - Matthew 18)

I am so glad Linda came with me. We had a wonderful time, made many new friends and connections. I believe we will be working together in some way in the days ahead.

(I am teaching my Spiritual Formation class at Payne this fall, on line, using Blackboard.)

Morality Is Non-progressive

 



(Mushroom on my lawn)

In my book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity I burst the progressivist euphoria bubble by showing that, even as there is progress of a sort in science, the human race is collectively stunted when it comes to morality.

An example of non-progressivist morality is this article in the Wall Street Journal. (10/18/23)

In "Dostoevsky Knew: It Can Happen Here," Northwestern University professor Gary Saul Morson utilizes Dostoevsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn to show that the heinous atrocities of Hamas and Isis are often perpetrated by intellectual sophisticates and elites. Theirs is a cautionary tale, telling us the same can happen today.

All that's needed are ideologues. Quoting Dostoevsky, 

“Ideology—that is what gives evil-doing its long-sought justification and gives the evil-doer the necessary steadfastness and determination . . . so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but receive praise and honors.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Washington State Discriminates Against Foster Parents Who Oppose Gender Ideology

 (This is totalitarianism. It's also happening in Canada. This is the progressivist end-game. [For more detail on this claim see my book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity.]

I'm posting the entire article from ADF's website. It's HERE. About ADF is HERE.)

Washington State Discriminates Against Foster Parents Who Oppose Gender Ideology

The state of Washington is requiring parents to promote its preferred views about gender ideology if they want to foster children...

Monday, June 10, 2024

Ask

 

                                              (Munson Park hill, across from our house)

At Redeemer we are preaching through the Bible. We are now in the wisdom literature (sermons are here - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes). 

Wisdom is a skill. Like, skilled in managing money, or skilled in bringing peace and reconciliation to troubled relationships.

Eugene Peterson writes,

"“Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such." (Peterson, The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In Contemporary Language, p. 870)

The way to acquire Godly wisdom is: Ask. We read,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

And just what is it that you are asking for? For this. 

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; 

then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, 

full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

To be filled is to overflow. A glass of water is 100% filled when it brims over onto its surroundings. To be filled with wisdom is to overflow with purity, peace, mercy, and so on, and more.

It's the same with the filling of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:15 commands, Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. The verb "be filled" is in the continuous tense, implying "keep on being filled."

The Spirit-filled life, said Jack Hayford, is the new-dimensional life of worship, witness, and warfare."

How do we keep on being filled with Holy Spirit wisdom? We ask. Jesus said,

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Right now, this morning, I begin my day, asking.

God, fill me with your wisdom.

God, fill me with your Holy Spirit.




The Bible and Homosexuality - What Do We Do?

 

                                                      (Sterling State Park, Monroe, MI)

This is for persons who are followers of Jesus and have a high view of the authority of the Bible. That is, persons who look to the Bible as framing their worldview.

So - what about same-sex sexual relationships and same sex marriage? There is not one verse in the Book that affirms them.

I'm not making this up. 

So, look at this reasoning.

1. Not one verse in the Book affirms same sex marriage.

2. God affirms same sex marriage.

How, in the name of Logic, can statements 1 and 2 be held, simultaneously, to be true? Minimally, it's difficult, requiring an unconvincing (to me and many others) display of hermeneutical gymnastics.

What do we do about this, we (and you) who love Jesus? Here's something from Michael Brown.

"So where does that leave us when it comes to the subject of the Bible and homosexuality? It leaves us in a place of humility before God, not condemning others, not judging with a harsh and censorious spirit, and searching our own hearts for sin and hypocrisy. It also leaves us jealous for God’s best, recognizing that His ways alone are the path of life. And it leaves us clinging tightly to the Lord and His Word, not wanting to impose our values, standards, and opinions on God’s Word but rather asking our heavenly Father to help us form our values, standards, and opinions based on the Scriptures. Otherwise, as Augustine once warned, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”" (Michael Brown, Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, p. 45)

The interpretive method is to get at the meaning of the text, independently of what you or I want the text to say. But do you like it? This is irrelevant, as regards the meaning of texts. (To persons who have unthinkingly succumbed to postmodern hermeneutics, which logicians and scientists abhor, there is no objective meaning to texts. But that's another story...)

Brown, Michael L.. Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality (p. 45). Charisma House. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, June 08, 2024

"The Meaning of Marriage"


In this video I make one point: The Christian metanarrative requires marriage to be between a man and a woman. 

SOME RESOURCES....


A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus 

By David Bennett

A Change of Affection: A Gay Man's Incredible Story of Redemption

By Becket Cook (Francis Chan writes the Foreward)

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

By Wesley Hill

 

WATCH THESE TWO VIDEOS

Christian Sexuality Interview with Francis Chan

Christian Sexuality Interview with Jackie Hill Perry

 

PARENTS – FOR YOUR TEENS

Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality

By Preston Sprinkle and Wesley Hill

 

FROM ROBERT YARHOUSE – EXCELLENT MATERIAL!

 

Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry

Emerging Gender Identities

 

PHILIP LEE’S EXCELLENT WEBSITE – HIS WAY OUT MINISTRIES

 

ON DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views

(I’m aligned with Craig Keener’s article on this.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Friday, June 07, 2024

Breaking Free from Self-Pity

(Lake Michigan sunset)

In Luke 9:23 Jesus tells us, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Self-denial is necessary to take up the cross and follow Jesus. It needs to be happen every day.

Self-denial involves stripping away negative aspects of the self. These are things like self-love, self-hatred, and self-pity. All are forms of self-obsession. The more self-obsession, the less following of Jesus there will be. Following Jesus is in inverse proportion to self-obsession.

Self-pity is one of the more punishing forms of self-obsession. Self-pity cannot coexist with spiritual renewal and transformation. 

In one of my seminary classes I was talking about holding “pity parties,” when a pastor named Samuel from Ghana asked, “What do you mean by “pity party?”” I said, “Samuel, the next time I host one for myself, I’ll invite you.” Unfortunately, I could write an essay on How To Host Your Next Pity Party.

To be self-pitying is to live life as a victim. While it’s true that sometimes we are victims, there is a spirit of victimization (self-deprivation) that is to be distinguished from the real thing. It looks like this: "Poor me! They are not treating me right - and after all I've done for them!" Such is the self-pitying, angry person. (Can you imagine Jesus acting like this?)

In this regard Henri Nouwen asks, "What else is anger but the response to the sense of being deprived? Much of my own anger comes from the fact that my self feels deprived." When one chooses to express this anger by hosting a pity party, self-obsession has begun.

In Tolstoy’s character Ivan Ilych we see one of the most brilliant literary depictions of self-pitying victimhood. Read closely. He writes: 

"What tormented Ivan Ilych most was the deception, the lie, which for some reason they all accepted, that he was not dying but was simply ill, and he only need keep quiet and undergo a treatment and then something very good would result… The awful, terrible act of his dying was, he could see, reduced by those about him to the level of a casual, unpleasant, and almost indecorous incident (as if someone entered a drawing room defusing an unpleasant odour) and this was done by that very decorum which he had served all his life long. He saw that no one felt for him, because no one even wished to grasp his position… [W]hat most tormented Ivan Ilych was that no one pitied him as he wished to be pitied. At certain moments after prolonged suffering he wished most of all (though he would have been ashamed to confess it) for someone to pity him as a sick child is pitied. He longed to be petted and comforted.” (Emphasis mine.)

Self-pity is in opposition to spiritual renewal and transformation of the heart. 
Someone who holds “pity parties” refuses to take responsibility for their own behavior, and blames others. Self-pity leads to a “victim mentality.” Self-pity needs to be denied access to our hearts, because it keeps us from being fulfilled in Jesus. 

To experience renewal and transformation, be free from defending your own honor and reputation. Experience God as your Defender. Do this by being like a branch attached to Jesus the true Vine, gaining your sustenance from him. You will experience a joy, and a peace, unlike our culture offers, that will exorcize self-obsession.

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Totalitarianism and Spiritual Warfare (resources)

 


Last summer I spoke in Wisconsin, and in NYC, on "Totalitarianism and Spiritual Warfare." Here are background resources I used, and referred to. 

(I'll give this message in NYC on Sunday, July 23.)

The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt

Escape from Freedom, by Erich Fromm

The Quest for Community, by Robert Nisbet

1984, by George Orwell

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher (I got the idea of "soft totalitarianism" from Dreher)

Live Not by Lies, by Dreher

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, by Carl Trueman (On the triumph of the therapeutic)

Strange New World, by Trueman

The Coddling of the American Mind, by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff

The State in the New Testament, by Oscar Cullman

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert Putnam

Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick Deneen)

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation (U. S. Surgeon General)