Who is to Blame?

I do not know about you, but I have noticed a very common aspect lately in our culture and have even been blamed myself of being guilty of such action.  It is the “Who’s to blame syndrome” that I am talking about, or otherwise the notion regarding where the fault lies.  Is this something that you have noticed?  I am sure that you have in some way or another have picked up on the deflecting of fault.  I recently saw a picture of a guy on Facebook (and if I put it up you most likely have seen it too) who was, to put it nicely, all gauged out, pierced, and tattooed with the caption reading “Can’t find a job. Blames the Government.”  Honestly I doubt the seriousness of such a poor soul not finding a job and blaming the government for it, I am sure there are lots of places willing to hire somebody with nostril gauges.  Needless to say there fine art to shifting blame and we are getting better and better at.

I wish I was a sociologist or psychologist tracking this phenomena.  I might be inclined to say that people were not loved enough as children.  Perhaps I could say they were over loved as a child.  I could fault anything or anybody for such behavior.  Maybe you picked up on that not so subtle hint.  People do not want to take any responsibility for who they are and they will seek to find a way to pass off fault to not enough hugs, too many hugs, overbearing bear hugs, soft and fluffy not going to contact you hugs, etc.  I will just come out and say it since I am on the hugs subject that I do not like hugs at all (except from my wife) and that is because I chose to be that way and its not rooted in anything other than my choice.  How can we blame things such as crib bars closely resembling prison bars or parental frown on behavior for problems.  People do it because of the simple fact that they can handle the responsibility of personal decision making when those decisions have less than desirable outcomes.  Notice how people are quick to soak up the glory for good decisions and claim responsibility.

It is interesting that we can find an excuse for anything wrong or undesirable.  I sometimes wonder if that is what people do in relation to God.  Do they play the blame game on God to try and make themselves better than they are.  There is an interesting concept in Bible that I think is hard for some people to swallow.  That concept is the one of children suffering judgment on parental decisions.  Oh the horror, right?  What kind of God would do such a thing?  Of course your first reaction is to blame God, that’s what we are good at, blaming anything but the ones responsible.  God asks a question of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah, “What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me?”  This statement is found in an indictment against the nation itself, and is rhetorical.  How can anyone find find fault in a faultless God.  That is absurd.  The people were to blame for leaving God.  The people left God because their fathers had left God but that did not excuse the people themselves for their own disbelief.  They could pass off fault all they wanted to on their fore-bearers but they could not escape their own actions.

What would our culture look like if people stopped blaming everything other than themselves for their own problems?  Maybe life would be better.  It might be scarier, especially if politicians started owning up to their faults and take their due blame.  Now there is a can of worms that I think it is best to avoid.  Realistically I do not see that happening on all levels.  We are too entrenched in this mode to stop.   The reality is that we all are to blame for our own actions.

 

The One That Always Gets Away

I am sure that many of you have heard at some point the story of the fish that got away.  I have more than a few of them to tell myself.  Naturally, when fishing it is imminent that there will be one that gets away. What makes the story of the one that got away so great is the brief moment when what is hidden by the depths shows its mighty self before, well, you know, getting away.  Such stories are bragging rights to one’s stature as a fisherman.  I would almost dare say that one is not truly a fisherman unless they have at least one epic tale of the monster from below.

I remember fishing in my great-grandparents farm pond as a youngster.  It was the normal relatively small body of water nestled in what was once the edge of the woods.  The pond was lightly peppered with old trees that offered perfect cover for legends that laid beneath the dark water.  I was able to steal away every so often and ride my bike down to the pond to fish.  Sometimes I would just fish for bass, other times I would carry bullfrog tadpoles and fish for catfish.  It was fun either way.  As my fishing abilities developed I outgrew the basic push button reel, to the spinning reel, yet the bait-casting reel was beyond my repertoire.  I determined one day to learn how to cast a bait-caster with the little Shimano reel that was a Father’s Day present to my grandfather.  That morning  I took that rod and reel with me to force myself to learn how to cast it with a black plastic worm and a bullet weight on the line.  By the end of my excursion I had gone from beginners status to novice.   Lets face it, going from making a bird’s nest every cast to having a few loose loops was good enough for me.  As my time at the pond grew to close I made a final cast (You already know where this is heading).  Still being a novice with a bait-caster, my spool decided to over spin a little more than I desired and the fishing line made a small mess somewhere between a couple of loose loops and a light bird’s nest.  It was a mediocre cast at best settling far short of my goal, but the lure landed beside a old tree trunk that was sticking upright and broken just above the waterline.  As the worm settled on the bottom I noticed a bass bite by the distinct tug on the line.  Now if you are familiar with bass fishing with plastic worms you know that you need to let the fish take the worm for a few seconds before setting the hook.  So here was what I thought, since I needed to let the fish take the bait and I also needed to pull some of the loose line off the reel from my errant cast to get to the point where all the line was tightly on the spool I decided that I would let the fish pull all the loose line out before setting the hook.

There I waited and shortly thereafter the fish did as I willed it to do and now with the line in good order on the spool I set the hook, only to find that that which was on the other end was not the normal weight and size of the fish I was accustom to in that pond.  The fish whom I had served a tasty morsel of plastic was “The Lord of the Realm”.  My mistake was giving him all that extra line, which translated to him having more leeway with how to disrupt my intention to bring him into my realm.   The fight was epic, but the master of the aquatic kingdom made a tactical move, a move that was not unforeseen by my keen eyes, yet it was a move that I could not necessarily forbid either.  As you recall my bait had landed beside a tree trunk.  Since the line had gone past it as he pulled it out, I would have to pull the fish back by said tree trunk on the way back in.  At first I thought I had succeed in getting the beast past it, but he had other plans and muscled out the strength to pull out line against the tight drag set on the reel.  It was then that this creature taunted me and will forever live as the epic bass of the pond.  As he turned past the tree trunk he neared the surface.  In the morning sun over my shoulder I then caught a shining glimmer of its profile.  I had never laid eyes on a bass so big (at that point in my life anyway).  My heart pounded at the thought of showing him off, but as quickly as he turned and revealed his majesty, he went quickly around that old tree trunk and broke the line.  Yeah, he got away.

That fish could have been eight pounds as easily as it could have been three.  Naturally I will lean to the larger end of that range.  Even though you want to doubt me as though it never happen I will never forget that shining profile turning in the water.  I left excited and dejected and I might add without a bait to continue fishing with.

I was reading in Job 41 today concerning the great Leviathan.  Some may say that this was a mythical creature embellished in the mind and made to be something larger than life.  I would say otherwise and will even say that it was indeed real and living in the days of Job.  He knew exactly what God was talking about.  The descriptions given are of a sea creature that is mammoth in size and power.  It is perhaps the greatest fisherman’s dream of the uncatchable monster of the deep.  If you read the speech by God given to Job you find out something interesting about this creature, and that is it is truly uncatchable. God underscores this fact with a series of questions that are rhetorical because of the obvious answers.  Can you hook it?  No.  Can you fill its skin with harpoons?  Never.  My favorite part to this discussion of the Leviathan is found in verse 8, “Lay your hand on him. Remember the battle. Never do it again.”

Being a fan of fishing, occasionally I will watch fishing shows.  I have seen some pretty epic battles waged between man and fish.  I have even experienced my fair share with some giants of the deep.  Never have I seen a battle so fierce that the angler said, “Never again.”  I have seen some anglers get whipped by fish but in the end they always want to do it again.  What kind of creature of the deep would be so terrifying that even the fiercest man would not dare even disturb it?  I do not know and I do not wish to find out and neither did Job.  The point to Job was that no one was so mighty that they could handle such a beast, it would always be the one that got away even if someone were to think themselves brave enough to dare attempt to try and catch it, and yet God created it.  The mighty monsters that are epically elusive to us for one reason or another are merely created beings.  They may spool out all of the line, break the strongest line as it were a thread, or pull with tireless strength, but no matter how leviathan-like it is in our minds it can not stand to the power and strength of its Creator.  If such beasts give way to their Maker, then how should we likewise respond?  Can we do battle against the one who made the leviathan and win?   Job realized that the only response appropriate to God was reverence.  If the hand of God is mightier than that uncatchable creature then the hand of God is mightier than man.

Inconsistency: Call for Love with Hatred

So this is my last post concerning the Facebook image that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  Yes I might have beat the dead horse a little too much but I thought that I would bring it to an end and move back into devotional writing next week.  This last inconsistency that is in the image is perhaps the easiest to observe and the easiest to understand, but likely the easiest to overlook.  Let’s face it though, that the best way to garner a hearing and a following is to unite under a banner of hatred towards a particular group.  In this case the illustrator wants to unite people together who are not necessarily pro-LGBT, but trying to pull at the heart strings of people in general to view a particular group as evil.

On the surface it should be obvious that the appeal to love while stirring up hate is counterproductive.  These two ideas are opposites and in and of themselves they drum up strong emotions.  So on the one hand, there is a Biblical call for love, and on the other hand there is a invocation to hate the those who are killing an individual with the Bible, namely preachers of the Bible but realistically all Bible believing Christians.  What does such a portrayal accomplish?  It accomplishes one thing, and that is an indictment against Christians who believe Bible and its message about sin (and in this case the sin of homosexuality).  I understand that there are those Westboro Baptist types who are serious about what they believe and radical in their verbiage.  Are these types the true face of Christianity?  These can hardly be a truly accurate face of what it means to be a Christian as addressed last week, but because they are among some of the loudest and their acts of protest do catch the public eye it is these types that shed a misguided light on the rest of the church.  So when one of them acts in a non-Christian way everybody sees it and pseudo-notions about Christianity spiral ever further downward, thus arriving to the point where someone can draw up a banner as such is being discussed here, giving an impression that anyone who believes the Bible is an evil person because they use it to oppress LGBT.  It is this subtle, and yet distinctive image that draws on the emotions of the viewer, that this is a violation of the goodness of humanity.  How despicable it is for someone to use the Bible to oppose another.  The victim on the ground has as much right to life that everyone else has.

Now however, is where the emotions being to take over.  This little image has now created a social division in the mind between a Bible believer and the rest of society.  Now the person who teaches/preaches/believes in the Bible as truth is now to be shunned and disapproved, because such a person is moral blight to the goodness of society.   Here is the problem: the illustrators wants to promote love (at least love from the Bible believer) and yet they illustrated them in a hateful way so that they will be hated as a group.  If the illustrator was truly after a message of love why did they not draw love between the Bible believer and the LGBT person?  At the heart of the issue is that the illustrator does not really want love, what they want is to win the mind to accept the lifestyle of LGBT.  This is done by portraying the enemy of the LGBT movement (at least Bible believing Christianity) as the a reproachful enemy.  This is done by making the Christian appear hypocritical.  It is almost as if the illustrator is saying, “You preach the Bible, the Bible teaches you to love, and you use the Bible to try and kill the way I live.”  Granted not all Christians are the perfect picture of Christ, but neither are secular people a perfect picture of true secularness.  Secular people will still bury their dead facing Jerusalem (east) which is a Christian tradition that shows the anticipation of the resurrection.  Secular people still adorn their homes with six panel doors which contain two Christian symbols (the Cross and the open Bible) that developed out of Christian tradition.  It is safe to say that everyone does not truly live in complete consistency with what the believe, including the illustrator who calls for love with hate.

What is needed to be understood is that there are two opposing worldviews at play here.  Is there a way for a peaceful coexistence?  That would be the dream would it not?  Can a Christian accept someone who’s worldview is opposed to their own.  Many Christians do it everyday.  They understand that there are those who make choices that are completely opposite to their worldview, this does not mean that they accept them as correct but they they understand the freedom of choice.  The opposite should also be true.  Can the LGBT accept someone whose worldview is not their own? Those of the LGBT should understand the choice that Christians take to believe the Bible even though it is opposed to their worldview and that is their freedom.  What it all boils down to is which worldview is true.  Truth will ultimately win the day, but truth is not based on who is the loudest and who can garner the most votes. Truth is not that petty.  It does not evolve with the mind of society, picking and choosing what is to be accepted based on the wishes of the people.  It has always been and always will be whether one chooses to accept it or not, and that is true love my friend.

 

Inconsistency: Message of the Bible

I thought that I would begin today by word of reminder that I am addressing one particular issue.  I did receive some feedback last week via comments that I believe missed the whole point.  If you have been following me for longer than two or three weeks you already understand the issue of the inconsistencies that I am addressing.  I will finish the fourth one next week, and I already know that some of you will be thinking, “thank goodness.”  If you haven’t read the Facebook war post a few posts back it may be helpful to contextualize what I am writing.  Today refers back to the misrepresented issue in the illustration about the message of the Bible.

You may remember well the quote that was utilized to promote a message of love which came from Romans 13:10.  At least for the illustrator the point that was being driven home was that preachers were using the Bible to bludgeon a LGBT person to death (at least in its hyperbolic form).  If we tone the rhetoric down a bit, the illustrator was getting at the Bible being used to oppress LGBT people, but honestly I think that is toning it down past the point of the original intent which will be our topic next week.  Suffice it to say if we single out what the person was saying about the Bible was that it is a book with a message of love and not oppression/death.  Since I have already covered the topic that not all Bible believing Christians (especially Pastors/Preachers) are evil or hateful I will refrain from that today.

I have been mulling around the approach that I want to take here because there is a plethora of options.  Since the illustrator had enough respect to use Romans to get his point across about the message of the Bible I will gladly restrict myself today to dealing only with the book of Romans.  I think it is rather ironic that a person of such persuasion would pick this book because it is perhaps Paul’s greatest logos protreptikos (persuasive argument)  and perhaps his greatest theological work even though it is not an exhaustive theological work.  Some may revolt in the fact that American law schools at one point in our history required the study of this book because of the foundational brilliance by which it was written.  Yes, that means lawyers once had to study the Bible.  It is a well formulated and excellently executed argument.  Paul actually covers in Romans, the message of the Bible.  So what is that message?

If we start in chapter one and work our way through the formalities of proper greetings we arrive at verse sixteen and seventeen which relate to us faith.  The message of this book is that the good news of Jesus has the power to save anyone through faith in Jesus.  Now as Paul proceeds from this point on he will argue by starting from the beginning to show the reason why people need to exercise faith and work his way ethical living of those who live by that faith.  This means that Paul will essentially cover the entire message of the Bible because he argues from Creation and Abraham (Genesis), he argues from The Law (Genesis – Deuteronomy), he argues from the Prophets, and he argues from the Poetical books.  For clarity here the Bible is a book of God’s love but if we do not understand His love then we completely miss what that love is.  God’s love is the offer of salvation to a world that He created that has rejected Him.

Moving onward then to the rest of the first chapter in Romans.  It is at this point I want to mention that the illustrator was probably unaware of the content found therein.  It is in this part of the first chapter that Paul explains why everyone needs salvation through Christ.  God has from the beginning revealed Himself (truth, righteousness, and all His attributes) to people, and all people have refused to glorify and worship Him.  They (or dare I say we) have changed the incorruptible glory of God to corruptible images.  If we stop right here for just a moment we see a God who created a special creation that in turn rejected Him. Since Paul has already stated that he is writing about the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus, then we ought to a least understand from this point that the Biblical message of love is not man-centered but God-centered.  The next point is where things get interesting.

Man exchanges truth for a lie.  In other words we as humans would rather believe anything is true but God.  People would rather believe evolution is true as opposed to God created.  People would rather believe aliens seeded life on earth as opposed to God created.  People would rather believe in trivial petty (and puny, via the Hulk versus Loki) gods than believe there is one God.  People would rather believe in themselves as the ultimate reality than believe in God.  There is only one truth and any deviance from that truth is a lie and lies are what people would rather believe than believing in God.  Which brings Paul to the point of addressing the lies that men live out, starting first with the exchange of what is natural for what is unnatural (i.e. LGBT lifestyles) in verses twenty-six and twenty-seven.  There is no way around Paul’s words here that can lessen the blow.  He is clear that all homosexuality is sinful, and for that matter there are heterosexual sexual sins too which that are covered in verse 29 with the use of sexual immorality.  Paul does further describe other lies of rebellious man and that such hearts deserve death as a righteous judgement for rejection of God.

I want to stop for a moment here because of the distorted rhetoric of the illustration.  The illustrator was trying to get across a message of love using the Bible as the source of love to argue against Bible believing preachers who use the Bible as a message of hate.  The problem with that rhetoric is that it does not match with the Biblical message, namely; the Bible is a message of a righteous God’s love toward an unrighteous people, and He wants those unrighteous people to accept His love that they may be righteous.  Perhaps you may want to go back and insert ‘sinless’ in regards to God and ‘sinful’ in regard to people in that last sentence.  I am not defending religious zealots who kill in the name of God, by any means because I do not believe you can force anyone to believe in a worldview that they simply refuse.  I will defend however, those who understand that the Bible is a book of truth and preach that truth, like Paul, without shame.  What I find as a odd and unbelievable is for someone of the LGBT persuasion to use the Bible that clearly rejects their lifestyle, in such a way as to promote their lifestyle.

The issue of homosexuality for Paul was not that it was the ultimate of all sins.  It is on this point that there may be some confusion for the extremist who calls himself a Christian.  Paul was giving an argument from nature and saying that homosexuality was an ultimate distortion of the natural order.  It is apt illustration of what is unnatural but really no different from any other distortion of natural order such as murder which is the killing of innocent life, deceit/lies which distort truth, coveting/lust which distort being satisfied with what God has given, and you can read the rest of Paul’s examples in chapter one and figure out how those sins distort truth.  Any distortion away from God is deserving of death because He is life.  Every person alive has in some form or fashion distorted the truth of God and thus every person is deserving of death.  This is why the gospel of Jesus is so precious, because God entered the world to provide a way for anyone who wants to, to exercise faith that they can be undistorted.  Exercising faith does not make a man perfect, just yet anyway, but makes him acceptable in God’s eyes.  Christians who understand the Bible as the Word of God will understand that they were at one point just as deserving of God’s judgment as anyone else.  It is incompatible then for them to oppress to the point of death anyone who does not live by Biblical standards.  That does not mean that they should however bow out of the public arena in expressing truth.   If we track further through Romans Paul writes that living by faith means dieing to sins, homosexuality being one (not all) of them. If a Bible believing Christian preaches the Bible they will address all sin in such a way not to be evil, but because they want people to live naturally as God created them to live.  The issue really then really boils down to perceived rhetoric of Bible preachers.

Let me jump ahead by leaping greatly over the vast part of Romans to chapter thirteen since it is where the quote came from.  In that part of the book Paul deals with ethical living for those who have faith in God.  The verse in question neatly sums up societal living for a person of faith which is probably why it was quoted.  As a Christian one is called to live in such a way as to fulfill the law, which is a reference to the Ten Commandments, and in particular in this context the last half of the Ten Commandments that deal with people’s horizontal relationships (human to human).  So if Christian takes a Bible and beats someone to death with it, then it is an abrogation of the truth (evil) they are called to live.  I can agree with that completely.  If a Christian tells a sinner that they are sinful, is that then an equal evil or is it love.  I think that it is often done in love however stronger uttered and perceived as evil, but again remember I am not talking about all preachers.   If I preach the truth of the Bible, it will take a twisting of my message and overt decontextualization, but I could easily be drawn into that illustration aforementioned.  This is why I already addressed the prior two inconsistencies.  If you approach the Bible wrong then you will misunderstand those who approach it right.

The Bible is a message of love.  It reveals a prefect God and His desire to have a relationship with an imperfect people.  He accomplishes that relationship by offering a perfect salvation through a perfect Savior that can restore anyone to a relationship with a perfect God, but they must do so by faith.  Romans wonderfully illustrates this message: All men are sinners, all men deserve to die, and if anyone through faith in Jesus dies to their sins, they can be made right with God.  That is the Biblical message of love.

Inconsistency: Bible Preachers are Evil and Hateful

Perhaps from the outside looking in on the ‘Church’ preachers may seem to be a rather spiteful bunch.  “The Bible says…, the Bible says…, the Bible says…, etc.” Sometimes preachers do seem like a broken record, at least those who preach from the Bible.  The preachers who preach about the Bible maybe not so much with a little sprinkle of warm fuzzies here, a dash of wholesome sweetness there, and a pinch of loving delight on top with a few verses to give some sort of spiritual connection to bring it all together in very fashionable cake that could only rival one made by Peeta Mellark.  I guess for my main concern here is that I skip over the broad array of styles of those who grace the pulpits because there are as many styles as there are pastors/preachers.  I want to focus more on those whose content begins and ends with the Bible.  It is these who preach the Bible with a degree of authority that are most often portrayed negativity as was seen a few weeks ago.  Are some deserving of such epitaphs? Perhaps so.   Broad labeling however, is appealing when trying to propagate ideas, but an elementary understanding in Rhetoric will downplay such emotional entreaties.  This underscores the value of education, at least in the more classical sense of the the word.  Thinking is valuable tool and can easily penetrate through emotional appeals and poorly framed arguments.

I mentioned before that there are some who are perhaps a little more deserving of being branded with using the Bible as a club of death, in the hyperbolic sense or course..  I for one have not personally met anyone like, that which is extremely odd since I attended the second largest Southern Baptist seminary in America.  Between my two degrees I spent nine years at the school, which would have brought me into contact with a few thousand current and future pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and educators.  All of these where sitting under professors who approached the Bible as the Word of God and taught it and/or their various disciplines from a conservative perspective, none of which ever clubbed to death someone who disagreed with them.  I mention this because Southern Baptist tend to take quite a bit of heat from socially liberal groups.  So where do these murderous preachers come from?  Honestly, I do not know but I can take a pretty good guess.  They come from good and honest people who take the Bible seriously.  Nothing wrong with that, because I take it seriously.  They come from people who are concerned about morality in culture.  Again, I can relate as a moral compassed culture provides a sense security and self-worth.  They come from people who have deep conviction.  Don’t we all?  They come from people who want a better America.  Who doesn’t?  Hope and Change!  (I say that with as much sarcasm as I can muster, sorry, I could not help but go there.)  I think I could so this all day but here is where I think the line gets a little blurry.  They come from a people who want to see a perfect society.  This last one I generalized for a reason.  No matter who you are and what you believe, this last one is true for you: The ideal of the perfect society.  Define that for a moment.  What is the perfect society?  That all depends on who/what has influenced you the most.  Let us say that you adore Sir Thomas More, how did he define perfection?  Utopia was attempted but completely failed.  What about the much adored and hated Karl Marx and his idealist perfect society.  Funny, how he was extremely deficient in managing money and his political/economic/social structure that is modeled in the western world is just like him, unable to manage money.  What about those who believe the Bible and its portrayal of the Millennium and New Heaven and New Earth?  Can anyone prone to sin create that kind of sinless society?  Even as a Christian I say that is impossible.  Back however, to the point.  Each one of us carries a picture of perfection, and each one of us wishes that picture were a reality.  It is when the opposing views of those ideals clash that we have problems.

The unrealistic reality of  perfection is clear that it will never be accomplished by humanity.  We are just to hard headed to back down from either what we believe is truth, or what we know as truth.  For the LGBT you will never gain the complete acceptance by the whole society because there are those who understand it as unnatural.  The same is true for those like me who would like for society to take on Biblical morality.   Early America did to a small degree.  As I stated earlier, those prone to sin, i.e. everyone, cannot create a perfect society.  People may create good societies but never perfect ones.  I for one am comfortable knowing that there is an absolute truth.  Where some preachers or Christians go wrong is the belief that they can impose that truth.  Somewhere along the way they have misplaced a palatable persuasive presentation of truth, with turn-or-burn rhetoric (which is not all that bad, just look at the two Great Awakenings in America), it begins to degrade though when it then gives way to religious badgering, which then naturally brings one to a zealous quest to bring the Kingdom of God on earth.

Here is were I know that greater wisdom can prevail.  As a Christian and a Pastor I believe in the truth of the Word of God.  Forcing ideals is never a good idea (which brings up an interesting debate on the current issue of same sex marriage, “Who is forcing who to accept what”).  If there is such a thing as absolute truth, which I know there is, then society ought to reflect such a thing, if it is at least going to attempt to be a good society.  The belief of no absolutes is an absolute so it is self-defeating to say that there is no absolute.  Sorry if you think otherwise.  As a Christian I know and understand that this world and its current state is not my home as much I want to see it as such I have to understand that I am passing through.  If the Bible is right, then there is nothing I can do to force God’s hand in creating or recreating a perfect world.  That is His, and His alone.  All I can do is tell people what He says, which does not mean that I will simply acquiesce to their demands to guide culture away from want I believe is a better ideal.  Holding this belief does not make me evil or evil hateful nor does it make all Bible believing Christians evil or hateful.

All preachers are not Bible thumping extremists, just as all LGBT are not NAMBLA extremists.  The universal branding of either as such is a problem.  Do I carry the Bible with me everywhere I go? Yes I do, and in fact I carry a library full with me.  You might not recognize it though as it is on my smart phone.  Since I have a Logos app I have access to about fifteen to twenty different English translations and about six or so Greek copies, a couple Latin copies, at least one German Luther Bible, and one modern Spanish version.  If I buy one of their packages, I will have access to even more.  Does that make me a religious nut, to carry around so many Bibles?  Some of you may think so, but I can assure you that I will not be clubbing anyone to death with my smart phone (or a Bible for that matter).  That is as absurd.  But I will stand firm for what I believe though, after all it is my right.  I expect you, if you disagree to do nothing less than the same.

Inconsistency: The Nature of the Bible

I think during the various editing of my last post I removed the language concerning my addressing of the four major inconsistencies of the illustration.  I do not want to beat a dead horse here, after all it is dead in my mind.  I know however, that merely stating an inconsistency and simply commenting on it in one sentence does not really answer the issue in a satisfactory answer for some.  One the plus side for me, I already have four weeks worth of posts already swirling about in my head as I will go through each one and explain them in more detail, though not in full completion.  That would take a book and I really do not feel like writing one today.  Perhaps later if I ever find the time.  The first inconsistency as you may recall deals with what the illustration claims about the Bible.  I feel the need to stress about in this claim because you may confuse it with the third claim that deals with the message of the Bible.  These two are different matters as you will later see.

There are different ways that one can understand the nature of the Bible.  The scale varies greatly from a work of religious literature to inspired by God.  How you understand the nature of the Bible is going to have major implications concerning how one reads, interprets, relates, and uses it.  First, let us look at the view that it is a religious book (literature) with wholesome ideals.  Here, like other religious literature the aim of the Bible was to provide a culture with meaning and value by giving them stories of heroes and heroines, teaching them those values valued by the culture.  Stories are embellished to make events more heroic, and the chief deity is made into the greatest of all cosmic forces to give culture a right of land, dominance, freedom, etc.  Miracles can not happen as claimed in the book because we in the post-modern age know better than to believe in such trivial foolishness.  Therefore, only the most basic and rudimentary elements of wholesome ideals that can be gleaned from the Bible are useful.  For example the ideal of love that was used in the illustration of my last post.  The ideal of love is perhaps a timeless value that we can all appreciate.  Since we are one the subject, we can find a ideal of love in almost every work of religious literature along with a lot of other ideals like going to war with your enemies, the existence of a comic deity, and some type of continued existence after death.  Let’s face the fact that religious literature incorporates certain elements.  The literature view however, diminishes any truth claim made by the book.  You can not believe in any creation story (which is a truth claim) because that would give authority to the deity involved that the universe is his or at least under his control.  Since no one likes being dominated or told what to do this can not be, because of  the principle of self autonomy.  I am my own person so I thumb my nose at any supposed deity.  There is complete control within this view of Scripture to make it whatever one wishes.

There is also the ‘word of god’ view in relation to the nature of the Bible.  It is here where I think more than a few Christians rest.  Perhaps even the illustrator lies in this view of the nature of the Bible.    These two views are very closely related.  The Bible is the word of god capturing an essence of ideal goodness found in the/a deity.   The use of lower case in reference to God is purposeful to draw out the undertones of this view.  That undertone is that there is most likely only one god as is found in the Bible but he is not the god as is presented.  We can take for example Genesis chapters 1-11 that primarily deal with the Creation and Flood.  Those stories are just too far fetched to be believed in so the element of truth that there is a god and he has been involved in this world in some fashion, but a literal six day creation is taking it too far.  The reality of god being upset over violent wickedness is somewhat understandable but flooding the whole world is beyond belief.  The ideal goodness of love is who god is, but the punishment of sin(especially eternal punishment) just does not match that essence of divine goodness.  I have even had one Christian teacher say that the god of the Old Testament (violent and destructive) is not the god of the New Testament (loving and redemptive).  The ideal of sin itself really becomes, not an affront to a Creator, but rather it is a plague on the advancement of humanity.  Since we are dealing with essence and not absolutes sin is the essence of oppression that does not allow humanity to become perfect.  Where there is oppression, the oppressor is the sinner.  If humanity is to reach the essence of a perfect society found in expression of heaven then all oppression must end and everyone must be able to live in their own essence of happiness.  In this view there is a meta-narrative of the Bible, but a diminished view of authority.  To put into other words there is a god, there is goodness, there is badness, and there is a heaven, but Bible is the product of human composition and any claims within most be broken down and subject to human understanding.    Here, there is a level of control by the reader to maintain their own authority over the Bible and yet believe in it. Perhaps you can see where these first two views can blend together, however on the extreme ends they can be completely different so much so that one can believe in the ‘word of god’ view and believe in the inspiration of that which is Scripture, which leaves open the fact that not all Scripture is inspired.  Confused yet?

Then there is the authoritative religious book.  It is on this level that things change drastically and in all honesty it is easy to confuse this with the ‘Word of God’ view below.  I do want to make the distinction between the two because there is a difference just like there is a difference between the first two discussed..  It is very easy to lump the first two together because many of the claims are virtually the same, but the starting points are completely different.  While the authoritative view and the Word of God view essentially have the same starting point each take a different direction.  Here, there is a real God, one God, who is the Creator God.  Under an authoritative view, the Bible is seen as the inspired Word of God.   After all it does claim inspiration by God and such people will say, “It is the Word of God.”  It is a book of absolute truth about God, about His work, about sin, and about eternity (heaven and hell).  It is not just a book for Christians it is the book for the world.  Everyone must believe in it or face the consequences.  It is here where the divergence lies with the Word of God view; if you do not believe I will force you to believe.  This was the view of the preachers in the illustration, using the Bible as a weapon of force.  Is then the Bible authoritative to the degree of forcing people to live by it?  There are some who believe so, but it is a fallacy to  group all who believe in the Bible as the Word of God as oppressive and violent men.

Where I stand is under the ‘Word of God’ view.  I have already diverged a little onto that in the previous paragraph and last week I did use the word’s Verbal Plenary  which you can follow the link and understand better what the Bible claims of itself.  For me to put simply is that the thoughts, ideas, and words of the Bible are inspired by God and God used various human authors and their writing styles to record His Word.   This is not verbal dictation although in some places there is verbal dictation.  Virtually on every point I can agree with the view above but where I draw the line of distinction is at free will.  Is there a moral absolute? Yes.  Does God wish for everyone to repent of their sin? Yes.  Does God force everyone to repent?  No.  God is a free Being.  He chose to create this world knowing full well what course it would take.  When He created man (and I am including woman so do not get to ruffled up), He did so in His image. It is not a physical image in view but the image of freedom of a living soul.  Each person is a free agent to make decisions.  Those decisions can be good or bad and the righteousness of the Creator is the standard by which those decisions are judged.  Is the Bible meant to be for all people?  Yes, because God created all people and in more than a few places invited all nations to come together and worship him.  Does anyone have the right to force it down the throat?  By no means.  Do I want you to know what it says? Yes. I will preach the story of the Bible as it is presented because of what the Bible says about itself.  You can close the window or whatever they call it on the Apple platforms, and you can avoid going to a church that understands the Bible for what it really it is, as is you freedom.

I am willing to listen to to the views of anyone but that does not mean that I will accept them.  The same should be true for anyone who does not believe the same views as me.  If the fact that the idea of God is abhorrent to you, you can tell me so, but allow me the opportunity to evaluate your claims and reject them.  Rejecting what I claim as right is your right, even though I do not think that you are right. Right? Right! If you are going to use the Bible in such a way to bolster your claims do not use it in a way that is inconsistent to what it claims to be, i.e. you believe that it has the wholesome ideal love, yet use it to propagate hatred.  Even if the illustration had depicted all the men holding hands and smiling happily together I would still have taken issue with the inconsistent claim about the nature of the Bible because it was quoted in the since of religious literature to propagate a reality that it clearly denies. You are welcome to believe what you wish about it, but do not misunderstand the nature of the claims that it makes about itself.

I Decided Not To Start A Facebook War

Facebook is an interesting place but it also a dangerous place.   I think it has evolved a bit from a place to keep up with friends, to a place of much more.  Opinions get shared, liked, linked, and blasted.  I admit that I do not always post on Facebook, after all, I do have a job and can not live on the site like some people do.  Sometimes I will mention  something fun that is going on in my life but, in general I am a introvert and prefer not to speak.  Occasionally I will link a good article or mention something that I think is worth mentioning.  Yes, like nearly everything shared on Facebook it will be liked by some and offensive to others.  That is to be expected.  Believe it or not I do often read links that people put up even if I know it will offend me.  Why subject my mind (and time) to trivial matters that loathe, despise, or that I otherwise disagree with?  (Forgive me English majors for ending a sentence with a preposition, I do try to avoid such matters.) I do so for mental aptitude.  It is good practice to understand how people think.  I read evaluate and move along.  I believe that if something that someone posts offends you that it is best not start an argument with the person, just let it go.  Understand that arguing will do nothing, especially on Facebook.  If you really want to disagree there are means at your disposal like a blog, a web page of your own, or do things the old fashion way and write a book.  Some of you may see where I am heading with this and if so your thinking abilities are good, unless of course you think that I am on  a rant.  Much to the contrary I am simply evaluating an argument that I saw recently issued by someone on Facebook.  It is a hot button issue and if you disagree with me, I do not care, tear me apart on your blog, ripe me up on your web site, unfriend me ( I can not help but laugh at the thought of that because of the recent car insurance commercial, “That’s not how this works!”), or talk about about how ignorant you think I really am with your friends.

I was glancing through the various posts of various friends, and yes I will use the terms friends because at some point in my life we were friends or acquaintances.  Quite a few of my [Facebook] friends have rather contrary views that I do, so we really would not get along other than whatever past connection we had.  Only once did I ever have conversation with someone on the site that was argumentative in style.  It was by no means ugly on my part because the person disagreed with something I wrote and decided to let me know that I was wrong.  I simply responded in a civil manner, and back and forth we went and the person eventually quit responding.  Now back to the issue at hand.  This is the image I saw this morning. I will present it in pieces for evaluation purposes.

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First, we will just read the writing.  What is point that is being driven home?  The point is pretty clear and can be stated simply as, “The Bible is not used for hurting, it is for love.”  If you disagree reread it and look at the terms used.  The illustrator is verbally pointing out using, the Bible, hurt, people, and wrong.  In the Romans quote the illustrator is drawing attention to no harm, neighbor, love, and law.   These are all key words.  At least in the words of the illustration everything seems to make sense and sounds good.  Since we are just looking at the words let us evaluate them.  If we can narrow down each sentence to just one word, what would each word be.  What you come up with is ‘hurt’ and ‘love’. There is a contrast that is being made in the two sentences between hurt and love.  The constant between the two sentences is the Bible, seeing that one is a statement about the Bible and the other is a quote from it.  So the argument is: That the Bible is not for hurting others, it is for loving others, so love others.  Again that seems to be a legit argument, and if you are a Logic fan I am sorry I did not write the syllogism out correctly.  Let me call attention to the fact that we have not defined the terms yet.  Do you define the Bible as the Word of God (verbal plenary inspiration), the word of God (merely capturing the essence of an ideal goodness envisioned in God), the authoritative religious book by which everybody must conform, or a religious book among others that teaches wholesome ideals.  It makes a huge difference which I will point out later because the illustrator is presenting it in two different ways.  Do you define hurt as inconvenience, damage, wounding of feelings, mental distress, or physical injury all of these and then some are acceptable definitions of hurt according to Webster.  Better yet, how you define ‘is’ can change the meaning completely, just ask Bill Clinton.  I have only scratched the surface here and all that you and I truly know is that the illustrator is making a claim about the Bible by contrasting hurt and love but we do not know how that person defines any of the terms.  With just the words that are vaguely defined we can be drawn into agreement rather easily.  Without rambling on and on about definitions, let us look at the visual that goes with the words.

angry men

 

 

 

 

 

Second, I want you to forget the words that we have looked at above and just focus on the image.  What do you see on the surface?  On the surface I see three angry men beating a man with Bibles.  Do you see the same?  Now, look again and what do you see? I see three preachers bludgeoning a G/L/T/AL (gay/lesbian/transgender/alternative lifestyle) person to death with their Bibles.  Do you see the same?  Now, look again and what do you see?  I see a good person who either is or supports the G/L/T/AL being bludgeoned to death by three evil religious preachers using their Bibles as weapons .  Do you see the same?  Notice the subtly of the illustrators visual argument. The preachers are presented as evil because they are all dressed in solid black suits, with hatred on their faces.    The good person is the G/L/T/AL because that person is wearing white pants.  The rainbow colors are a clear delineation of the lifestyle and they add color to an otherwise drab picture which creates a degree of warmth.  Here is the one person who you should see standing and full of life, but instead they are face down bleeding to death or otherwise already dead.  Are your eyes not drawn to the white pants the colorful shirt and crimson blood on the ground? Do you not feel some sort of pity towards this person?  Now for the kicker.  Do you not feel hatred towards those evil religious preachers? Do you not want to see them punished for their crime?  Now lets put the two together.

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Third, I want you to see the words and the visual together.  Since we have broken down the image on two levels let us look at the whole argument.  Now we see that the Bible as understood by the religious is being defined in the first statement as an authoritative book that demands conformity and hurt is being defined as a physical injury (even death).  Before you get get bent out of shape I do understand hyperbole and symbolism and that it is at play here.   The illustrator, however, is redefining Bible as a book of wholesome values and that those using it as a blanket book of authority demanding conformity are using it wrong.  The illustrator proves them wrong with a quote from Romans.  Taking into account hyperbole and symbolism the illustration is seems to be saying that, “The Bible teaches love and not hurt, so love and stop misusing the Bible.”  At least this is what you see, but really the message goes much deeper to, “The Bible teaches you to approve (cloaked in the term of love) my lifestyle, and if you do not you are an evil person that needs to be punished for hate crimes.” Go back and look at the illustration and again and look at it at every level.  I think the message is pretty clear, that it is not about hurting or love, rather it is about the evil of disapproval presented in hyperbolic fashion.

I have tried to brief on each level, but detailed enough for you to see everything that is going on in the illustration.  What troubled me the most was the inconstancy of the argument one four points.  It is inconstant in what it claims about the Bible.  The Bible claims of itself, verbal plenary inspiration.  It is inconsistent with labeling those who believe in the Bible as evil haters of  G/L/T/AL people.  Those who believe the Bible, believe in a good and just God who is the measure of good morality, while there are some extremists with poor theology that are on the fringes that are violent and admittedly evil, the people whose theology is right are not evil.  It is also inconsistent with the apparent message of the Bible.  The message of the Bible does teach love, but that love is defined in a good God who loves His creation enough that when it choose to reject Him, He choose to offer a way to save it.  I want to clarify another aspect of this point here on the book of Romans since the illustrator used it to justify his position, because the book Romans clearly rejects the G/L/T/AL position as good in 1:26-27.  I guess the illustrator skipped over that part of Romans.  Finally it is also inconsistent with its’ call for love/acceptance/approval, yet invoking hatred by criminalizing other people.   The message of love is undercut by the emotions of hatred the illustrator draws up towards the religious men.  Clearly the illustrator demands acceptance in the name of love but is unwilling to accept anyone who disagrees.

This is the one fairly consistent thing that I have noticed in the G/L/T/AL community: approve my lifestyle while I refuse to approve yours.  I say fairly consistent because I understand that not everyone thinks the same and I have met a few in that lifestyle who where accepting of what I believe.  I did not try and convert them and they did not try and punish me.  We mutually accepted our differences and that was that.  A recent article just came across the news this week in New Mexico that I think aptly reveals the approve or be punished mentality.  You can read the story for yourself here.  I find it disturbing that this couple is criminalized for remaining true to their beliefs and forced to compromise. .  Let me rephrase that, they told her, “if you want to stay in business you will subjugate yourself to the wishes of state and the G/L/T/AL community.  There is no compromise or freedom in that.  If the couple wants to lose money by standing by their religious convictions let them lose money.  The couple in question were able to find another photographer for a cheaper rate.  The photographer in question lost the money of that couple and anyone that would have been referred by the couple.  Was it not compromise before the couple sued?   Of course it was.  The photographer and her husband did not agree with the couple but they did not force them to change their lifestyle.  So whose lifestyle was really violated?