Category Archives: Biblical Worldview

Why Is Christmas on December 25?

 

Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25? Two conflicting positions:

One: To “commandeer the date [that pagans used for their festivals] and introduce a new festival.” Is this a bad thing? No, “for the church has generally viewed efforts to reshape culture—including holidays—positively.”  So says Elesha Coffman.

Two: “Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to  create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.” So says William J. Tighe.

So who is correct, if either?

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Christian Life After Yesterday’s Supreme Court Ruling: Helpful Links

indexHere are a few links that I have found helpful in my initial processing of the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage and essentially changed the legal definition of marriage.

My own bishops of the Free Methodist Church-USA issued a sound statement on the ruling and reminded us of where we stand as a denomination:

As Free Methodists, we remain committed to our best understanding of what God intended from the very beginning, what Jesus affirmed, and what virtually all followers of Christ have understood almost universally until relatively recently. We unequivocally affirm that from the beginning God intended marriage as composed of one man and one woman committing themselves to one another in a lifelong covenant of faithful love. In this union, where two become one flesh, God intends the reflection of God’s own self, God’s own image (see our 2011 Book of Discipline, par. 3215, 3311).

A post from Bishop David Kendall back in 2012 is helpful on the whole issue of Re-Defining Marriage. At the conclusion of his post, Kendall wrote,

But what if we “re-defined” marriage in practice?  What if followers of Jesus truly followed Jesus?  If in Jesus’ name, we found grace to wait on sexual expression, grace to enter into deep and joyful intimacy with the one to whom Jesus leads us, grace to forgive and be forgiven, grace to become truly one in Jesus, grace to weather the storms of life together better and stronger than on our own, grace to grow old graciously and sweetly together, grace to experience a bond so insoluble that even death does not threaten?  What if among more and more of us, God’s good idea of marriage—God’s idea—appeared on beautiful and inviting display?

How might God work if we could “re-define” marriage, beginning in our homes, in such ways?

In Everything Has Changed – The Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage,  Albert Mohler makes many important points, among them reminding us of the growing animosity toward traditional Christians that we must learn to live with:

One of the most dangerous dimensions of this decision is evident in what can only be described as the majority’s vilification of those who hold to a traditional view of marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. Justice Samuel Alito stated bluntly that the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” According to the argument offered by the majority, any opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in moral animus against homosexuals. In offering this argument the majority slanders any defender of traditional marriage and openly rejects and vilifies those who, on the grounds of theological conviction, cannot affirm same-sex marriage.

Own Strachen gives us Five Implications of the Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision. One of the things we should do, he writes, is

Lastly, we should cultivate our families and reinvest in our marriages. It’s right and even needed to seek the reversal of this decision and the undoing of its many baleful effects. We must and should do that, and every single Christian should participate meaningfully in the political system at every level they can. But let’s get this straight: our major work going forward, along with what I’ve said thus far, should in truth be the cultivation of our own gardens.

Kevin DeYoung, who has written a wonderful book called What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality, posted a helpful response: But What Does the Bible Say? He emphasizes loving our neighbor and holding fast to biblical truth. He wrote,

Any Christian who really believes the Bible must believe all of the Bible. You can’t applaud what Jesus says about loving your neighbor from Leviticus 19, if Leviticus 18 and 20 are throwaway chapters. You can’t unpack the good news of Romans 8, if Romans 1 is overstuffed with cultural baggage. You can’t marvel at the goodness of God’s creation, if there is no good design in how he created things. Either the Bible is God’s Word or we are sufficiently godlike to determine which words stay and which words go.

The cultural breezes are blowing against us. The worldly winds are stiff in our faces. But the hard parts of the Bible are no less true for being less popular. The Bible says what it says, so let us be honest enough to say whether we think what the Bible says is right or wrong. Diarmaid MacCulloch, a decorated church historian and gay man who left the church over the issue of homosexuality, has stated the issue with refreshing candor:

This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of homosexual identity. The only alternatives are either to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong. (The Reformation: A History, 705).

Yes, those are the only alternatives.

Lastly, Denny Burk offers good counsel to pastors in A word to pastors preaching in the aftermath of Obergefell v. Hodges. To summarize: be biblical, courageous, practical, and holy. All of which require boldness and a willingness to suffer the consequences.

May the Lord give us wisdom to know how to live in this fallen world, commitment to hold fast to his truth, and strength as we enter a time of increased marginalization.

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Filed under Biblical Worldview, Culture, Discipleship, Ethics, Pastoral Reflections, Secularization, Society

Joshua Duggar and Mistakes vs. Sins

Yesterday it came out that Joshua Duggar, eldest son of the “19 Kids and Counting” show, now married with three of his own kids, molested several of his sisters when he was fifteen years old. The media loves dirt and scandal, especially on conservative Christians, so the story has spread like wildfire. Both Joshua, his parents, and his wife have issued statements, in which responsibility was taken for Joshua’s actions. Always helpful, Russell Moore has offered a good reflection on the issue.

But what Jim Bob and said in their statement interests me in particular on a biblical/theological level.  I certainly do not want to study their statement as though it was written by a professional theologian, but the choice of a particular word has caught my eye. It did because I hear it out of the mouths of Christians a lot. That word is “mistake.” Here is short bit of what they wrote:

“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked.”

Certainly they had to be careful with their statement and they do have experience with wording things for media consumption. But that word “mistake” is the wrong word to use, at least in terms of a biblical worldview. It is the wrong word because Joshua did not make mistakes but committed sins. The difference is significant. When one makes a mistake one errs. Think of your checkbook register. You make a mistake when you make a math error or forget to record a check and thus screw up the balance in your register. You intended to get the balance correct but you accidentally got it wrong. But a sin is different, properly understood. A sin is intentional. You know an action is wrong and you do it anyway. That is a sin.

Joshua Duggar had to know that molesting his sisters was a sin. He had been raised in a Christian family with conservative values and boundaries. He also has a God-given conscience. So to call what he did a “mistake” is woefully inaccurate.

Too often I hear Christian people refer to the sins of their children or their own as “mistakes.” I suspect that it often is an attempt to minimize what was done. But sometimes it is simply the influence of the world on the thinking of Christians. Our grasp on a truly biblical worldview is so weak at times that we do not stand apart in our speech.

A Christian’s grasp of a biblical worldview and deliberate employment of it takes work. But it is worth it because without it we often do not look at things in the way God has revealed that we should. And when we do not look at things the way God intends us to, we cannot live for him as fully as we should. God deserves our best.

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Bad Theology at Funerals

When good, biblical theology is pushed aside or is simply unknown, the void is not left unfilled. Other thinking takes its place, and the results are often sentimental drivel or some vaguely Christian sounding thought that is profoundly misleading. Human beings are inherently religious, and thus it is normal for us to look outside ourselves for some kind of meaning and way to make sense of life.

One occasion that such thinking is expressed at is the funeral. We have heard comments like this about the deceased: “God needed another angel in heaven,” or that “God could not wait to have” the deceased. These comments reflect the erroneous ideas that human beings are transformed into angels when they die, and that God is impatient. The former does not understand that humans and angels are different beings altogether, and the latter is an unintentional assault on the character of God.

One sad example that shows up at funerals is a saying that is written on some type of stone material  and often delivered by a local florist. The idea is that grieving family can take that stone and set it up in their yard somewhere after the funeral. The saying goes like this:  tears and heaven 2

If tears could build a stairway

and memories a lane,

I’d walk right up to heaven

and bring you back home again.

Why is this so sad, terrible, and unbiblical? As an expression of grief and love for the deceased, it is truly heartfelt. But the theology is horrific. Heaven is where believers go at death, the place where God is, and this is often called the “Intermediate State.” Believers go be “with Christ” (Phil. 2:3, 2 Cor. 5:8) if they die before His return, and there they await the coming resurrection in blissful joy. So, if that is the case, why in the world would any of us want to yank a  Christian from heaven and bring him or her back here to this world that is full of sin and suffering, away from the immediate presence of the Savior?!? One would have to be tremendously selfish to want to remove a person out of a blissful existence just to have their company. Instead, at the death of a true believer we should grieve over the temporary separation and consequent pain from the believer by death, but we should NOT feel bad for the deceased believer – he or she is now doing better than we are! We should rejoice that he or she is now with the Lord and make sure that eternity with Jesus is our destination as well. Our wish should not be a reunion in this life, but our hope should be in a reunion at Christ’s second coming: “and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Don’t exchange biblical truth for sentimental drivel or bad theology. Learn the Scriptures and expel unbiblical thinking that you may know the true hope of the Lord.

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Bible Reading with Children: Some of the Best Books

As you know, I have been pushing myself and others to read more of the Bible in 2015 than 2014. My desire to know the Scriptures was formed though my mother’s faithful practice of reading Bible stories and other devotions to me and the family from the time of her conversion when I was about two through my high school years. But what did she read to us that worked? Reading straight from the Bible to toddlers can work if you are very selective and brief in the chosen readings and want to offer A LOT of explanation, but most prefer some type of story Bible for children that summarizes key stories of the Bible. Here are a few of the books that I have used and still use with my daughter, some of which my mother used with us growing up.

The Bible in pictures for little eyes classicKenneth Taylor’s The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes is a classic. It works for toddlers and preschool aged children. On one side of the page is a large picture of a Bible scene, and on the opposing page there is a short summary of the Bible story. The sentences are short, basic, and are followed with a couple of discussion questions. I can still see many of the pictures in my mind. At right is “old” edition that I grew up with. At left is a picture of the new edition with new illustrations. I have not looked through the neThe Bible in Pictures for little eyes neww edition, but I have heard good things about it. It might be worth owning or at least inspecting both before purchasing.

My favorite book, though, and the one my mother read through to us repeatedly, and the one I have read through repeatedly with my daughter, is The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos. I grew up on one of the old editions. The original was published in 1935. A fifth edition was published in 1984. I have studied and considered may different story BibChildrens story bibleles and have never found one that is better at summarizing Old Testament stories, teaching biblical history through the reigns of the kings, and linking everything to Christ. It is still popular because it is that good. Sure, you will quibble here and there with a few of Vos’ theological remarks and a few old-fashioned ways of putting things, but the good so far outweighs those small problems you will likely stick with the book. This is the one to read every night to your child, one story at at time, from beginning to end. When you finish the book, you will know your Bible stories better, you will probably do something else for Bible reading for a while, and then you will probably start working through this book again. It just draws you back to it. This book works with kids frA Children's Garden of Bible Storiesom about five  years old through high school.

Other helpful books that are in a series are A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories. Each one has a set of Bible stories with accompanying illustrations. I read through one with my daughter when she was in 2nd grade and was impressed with the clarity of the story summaries and the gentle applications of them. These books are published by Concordia, which is the publishing arm of the conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Concordia has a reputation of publishing top-notch educational materials, and these books are no exception.

Another good story Bible that would be great to start using with a child who has outgrown The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes is The Story Bible, published by Concordia. This story Bible has 130 Bible stories, each beautifully illustrated with discussion questions, suggested activity, and a prayer. This book is highly recommended until your child is ready for more detail. Even then, the book is ESV Illus family Bibleworth keeping for use in children’s ministry at church.

 The Story Bible ConcordiaThe last good story or family Bible I will mention is the ESV Family Bible. This book has actual excerpts from the ESV text connected by the editor’s summary statements. It is quite good in content, but more than once my daughter and I were frustrated with the brevity of the stories or detail that was left out. Yet, it is well-done; it just won’t give you the big picture of the Bible’s story line like The Child’s Story Bible will. But oh, the art! The illustrations are fabulous in this book.

Why use one of these story Bibles with children? Simple: all people need to be grounded in biblical stories and their teachings, and learning these stories thoroughly as a child will produce a million spiritual benefits. Children will catch biblical allusions in literature and movies, they will grasp sermons better because they will be already familiar with the Bible, and they will build a biblical worldview. So get some of these books and read steadily, faithfully, and systematically to your kids.

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