Monthly Archives: July 2014

Are Women Human?

I admit that this title is not original with me.  I borrowed it from a justly famous essay by Dorothy Sayers.  As the title suggests, she asks an important question.  At first glance, it seems like a trivial question.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that we get the wrong answer most of the time.

I was in a bookstore the other day.  I had a gift certificate so I figured that perhaps I could finally pick up this Sayers essay that I have been wanting to read.  I asked the young lady at the counter if she had it.

She was your standard brainwashed college student who has been carefully groomed not to think for herself. I have before inquired about several conservative titles and she tended to avoid me with contempt as a privileged, white, misogynist male.

She said, “Women are human, by the way…”, with contempt dripping from her lips.

I responded, “Sayers was a champion for women’s rights in the early 20th century and one of the first few women to graduate from Oxford.”

She muttered, as she searched for the book in her computer, “She would have been appalled at the Supreme Court decision this past week,” referring to the well-publicized Hobby Lobby case.

At that point, I realized that I was dealing with a person who was unaccustomed to thinking her own thoughts.  Or, as Sayers would put it, one who was not living as if she were fully human.

She writes,

What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person….What is unreasonable and irritating is to assume that all one’s tastes and preferences have to be conditioned by the class to which one belongs.  This has been the very common error into which men have frequently fallen about women – and it is the error into which feminist women are, perhaps, a little inclined to fall about themselves.

Sayers was prophetic, as my exchange at the bookstore illustrated.  “Because she is a woman, she also agrees that women are incapable of making moral choices, but are simply animals with a need to rut in the streets like everyone else.  Being animals, they cannot be expected to make their own decisions, provide for themselves, or live with the consequences of their actions.  She therefore, being a woman, would assume that a court decision forbidding the government from forcing rich white males into providing abortion services free of charge is by its very nature an attack against women.”

“Since they are not human, they cannot be expected to resist their urges to mate freely with the alpha male, and must be kept and provided for by their masters – the rich, white males of Hobby Lobby.  But Hobby Lobby believes that women are human beings and don’t need to be stabled and kept, so they must be destroyed.”

But the only way that this logic follows is if women are not really human beings, but are rather animals that exist to gratify the lusts of men – unchoosing, unfeeling, and unfettered by moral restraint.

Rich white privileged professors have indeed been successful in grooming our daughters into a life of sexual slavery, all under the guise of “women’s rights.”  And they are incensed when anyone calls them on it – when anyone suggests that perhaps their daughters are in fact, human beings, created in God’s image, designed by God Himself to live with Him in eternal blessedness, reflecting His glory forever.

They sneer with contempt at those young women who insist on being treated as image-bearers, demanding covenant promises and faithfulness, desiring respect and honor, before uniting in a bond of love, intimacy and the joy of marriage.

They are terrified that perhaps the objects of their lusts have these old-fashioned morals based upon an old-fashioned book that demands that women be treated as human beings, rather than animals.

So they have made an all-out effort to remove any notion of humanity from our sexuality, grooming our daughters while we pay more and more tuition dollars for the privilege.

 

I read that essay a while back and have been thinking about it.

While I was thinking about it, I dusted off a book from my shelf called “Reforming Marriage” by Douglas Wilson.  I read it and wondered when we were going to get this right.  Wilson, in seeking to “combat feminism” makes the same assumptions about women as the bookstore employee.  Women aren’t really fully human, but were designed by God to be dominated by men.

He quotes Genesis 5:1-2.

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.

He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.

Then he writes,

In Hebrew, the …word translated mankind is Adam.  In other words, God created Adam and his wife male and female, He blessed them and called them Adam.  She was, from the beginning, a covenantal partaker in the name of her husband.  God does not call her Adam on her own.  He calls her Adam with him (Reforming Marriage, page 15)

I have often said that if we are not right about Genesis One, we will be wrong on everything else.  This topic is no exception.  Wilson acknowledges on the next page (Page 17) that Adam is a generic term for man or mankind.  In this, he is absolutely correct.  Not only is the word “Adam” the proper name for the first male of the species, it is also the term for humanity in general.  From this, it is apparent that Wilson is teaching that apart from the male, the female has no humanity of her own.  “God does not call her Adam on her own.”

Wow.  This is not only poor anthropology, it is also horrible exegesis.  It does not follow that since Adam means humanity, that it must mean humanity every time that it is used.  Nor does it follow that since Adam is the proper name for the first male of the species, that it means this proper name every time it is used.  Ultimately, context must come in to it.  Wilson changes the meaning of the word midstream through his argument, switching back and forth between the two different meanings of the word Adam.

Wilson is using this argument to give biblical justification for the wife taking her husband’s name, but he reads into the text that which isn’t there, interpreting the text to mean the opposite of what it actually means.  It is one thing to say that God calls the woman “human”.  It is quite another to say that God calls her Adam because she derives her humanity only through him.

Moses’ point is this.  God called the male of the species and the female of the species both human.

As human beings they were in God’s image directly.  As humans they were directly accountable to God, joint-heirs of the promise.  As humans, they had minds, will, thoughts, feelings, desires and longings.

And not just the male.  The male AND the female.

Moses is teaching here that women are indeed fully human, in every sense of the term.

In fact, the first time that females are mentioned, they are mentioned in this context, from Genesis One:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

It cannot be avoided.  The dominion mandate is given to BOTH the man and the woman, from the very beginning.  Wilson avoids this by simply not mentioning it.  He writes,

In addition to taking care of the Garden of Eden, Adam was also to multiply and replenish the earth.  There was an obvious need for a helper as he could not multiply the species all by himself. The task assigned to him was that of exercising dominion over the earth; in order to accomplish this task many descendants were needed (Page 29).

Dominion, to Wilson, was given to the man.  The woman was to be his helper by bearing descendants.  Women are not fully human.  The dominion mandate is not given to them apart from their husbands.  They have no gifts nor abilities nor strengths other than those given for the purpose of bearing and raising children.  If they are in heaven, they will also be subservient to the men there, for this is God’s created order.

But this is not what the text in Genesis actually says.  The female is a human being, in every sense of the term.  As a human being, she also is fallen in Adam and redeemed in Christ.  She is a member of Christ and a partaker of His anointing. Her humanity is not mediated through her husband and neither is her justification and sanctification.  She also is complete in Christ, and must therefore take heed to these words:

18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. (Col. 2:18-19)

Paul’s entire point in this epistle is that Christians are redeemed by Christ alone.  He alone is the mediator and savior of the world.  False teachers will seek to drive Christians from Christ by offering other mediators – in this case, angels.  Rome offers their priests, but Wilson offers the husband as the mediator of sanctification.  Both take away from the humanity of the Savior as well as the humanity of the “lesser” people of God.  Both are denials of Christ.

When a woman takes a husband, she is to submit to him in the Lord.  But this isn’t what Wilson teaches.  He teaches that women as a class are created a little less human, with their humanity mediated through men.

When we are wrong in Genesis One, we are wrong everywhere.  Wilson’s poor theology leads to the following advice from Wilson:

“The first time the dishes are not done, he must sit down with his wife immediately, and gently remind her that this is something which has to be done. At no time may he lose his temper, badger her, call her names, etc. He must constantly remember and confess that she is not the problem, he is. By bringing this gently to her attention, he is not to be primarily pointing to her need to repent; rather, he is exhibiting the fruit of his repentance.

“He does this, without rancour and without an accusative spirit, until she complies or rebels. If she complies, he must move up one step, now requiring that another of her duties be done. If she rebels, he must call the elders of the church and ask them for a pastoral visit. When the government of the home has failed to such an extent, and a godly and consistent attempt by the husband to restore the situation has broken down, then the involvement of the elders is fully appropriate.”

At best, she is a recalcitrant child.  At worst, she is inhuman, and incapable of wanting to keep an orderly home all on her own, or perhaps even having a “less than neat” personality.  She cannot be renewed by the Holy Spirit, but her husband must show her (gently, of course) how a Christian home really should be.  She cannot possibly have a reason to not have dishes done.  She, of course, is not allowed to think that maybe it would be OK for the dishes to sit on the sink until tomorrow.  She must think as her class tells her to think. She is not allowed to be tired, irritated, exhausted, discouraged, lonely or worn down.  She is not human.  She is an appendage of the man, made only to be dominated by his whims and desires – gently, of course.

Wilson writes, “(God) created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage.” (Page 24)

But you know something?  Women and men both have all different types of personalities, likes, dislikes, styles.  They are sloppy or neat, obsessively clean or obsessively unorganized.  Some women like trucks and some men like to design clothes. Some women like Aristotle; some men like to Pinterest.  To be human is to be an individual, accountable to God alone, free from bondage and tyranny. There is a difference between mutual, loving order and dominance and subjugation.  The world has “50 Shades of Grey”; the church has “Reforming Marriage”.  Neither are biblical.  The desire of fallen man is to rule over his wife.  But this is the curse.  And Christ did away with the curse.

I guarantee that if a man called the elders of our church to his house to explain to his wife how to be faster at doing dishes that he would end up with a far different conversation than the one Wilson imagines.

It is at once terrifying and exhilarating to be married to a human.  The reason that God took Eve from the side of Adam was not because Adam would always be dominant, but that Eve would be fully human, of one blood with Adam.  Just like him in every way, but female. The creation mandate was given to them both – male and female.  Moses couldn’t have said it more often or more clearly.

God could have made something else to clean Adam’s dishes, bear his children and serve his whims.  But it wouldn’t have been good for Adam.

So God made a woman. Adam could only love a woman.  You can be aroused by all sorts of things.  You can get a machine to do the dishes in a timely way.  You can get a television to talk to you at night. You can get a snuggle pillow to hug at night.  A donkey can carry bags and a monkey can be fun.

But you can only love a woman.  In order to love a woman, you have to see how she sees.  Understand what she is feeling.  Know her dreams and desires and goals.  Know what she fears and what she longs for.

These attributes only apply to humans.  If your wife isn’t really human, just part of a class, you can use her to your destruction; but you can’t love her.

Fallen man thinks that they want a chef in the kitchen, Martha Stewart in the home, and a hooker in the bedroom.  God says otherwise.  He says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.”

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Marriage

It’s Probably Their Own Fault – and other marks of our idolatry

You probably know someone who is hurting.  Perhaps they put on a happy face.  Perhaps they keep things close to the chest.

Perhaps their happy family life is not what it appears to be.  Perhaps they struggle with an incurable illness year after year and have just learned to quit talking about it.

Why do so many suffer in silence?

I have frequently asked that question.

I started asking again recently.  I have been reading Predators by Anna Salter. After her chapter on Rose Colored Glasses, I put it aside and thought about it.  I think I may know why so many suffer in silence.

Dr. Salter makes the case that in her experience, people tend to view the world as a far better place than the one that actually exists.  They try to make sense of senseless violence, because their minds cannot accept a world where evil can happen to anyone, anywhere.  So they create a new reality in their heads.  In this reality, they are in control of their destiny.  People are generally good.  They can spot liars and deceivers.  They can protect themselves if they just do everything right.

She writes, “People have always wanted to feel safe in the world and to fend off the frightening reality that the death rate is one per person and that the timing of it appears to have nothing to do with goodness.”

The reality of this world is that there is death, sickness, suffering, illness and senseless acts of violence.  But this clashes with our own idolatry – that if we do everything exactly right, we can avoid anything unpleasant.  Were we not told that we control our own destiny?

But dreams do not bring with them the talent to achieve them.

Life does not guarantee health and beauty.

The death rate is still one per person.

 

I think that this explains why we as a fallen human race tend to blame the victim whenever anything bad happens.  It is the only way that we can keep convincing ourselves that we live in a safe and happy and just world with no need of either a Savior or a Judge.

A neighbor is raped.  We immediately find fault in where she was at the time.  What she was wearing.  What she was doing.  What time it was.

A man is chronically ill.  We immediately critique his diet, his habits, his health “pro-activity”.

A child rebels hard against his parents.  We immediately wonder what his parents did to mess him up so bad.  They probably didn’t spank him.  They probably spanked him.

A child dies unexpectedly.  We immediately wonder what the parents did wrong.

A woman is beaten by her husband, and we wonder if she could have been a little more submissive.

 

It is true that a prudent man will take reasonable precautions.  A man would be wise to avoid walking into a bar with a suit made of money.  We should not willfully run into danger.

But this is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about living in a cursed world.  There is wickedness, sickness, death, destruction, misery and all sorts of things that happen to all sorts of people and there is nothing that they could have done to have avoided it.

 

It appears as if we have only two options:  We can either continue to live in the reality that we have constructed in our own minds – that all reality is ultimately determined by our own free will – in which case we will make better choices, despise those who are suffering for making the wrong choices, and close our eyes firmly shut against any evil, whether moral or natural.  Or, we can become cynical, hardened and fatalistic.  Bad things will always happen to me and there is nothing that I can do about it.  Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

 

But the Bible commands us to open our eyes to a reality that cannot be seen with the eyes of the flesh.

All things are in the providential hand of God.  Heidelberg Catechism states it plainly:

What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of nothing made heaven and earth with all that is in them, who likewise upholds, and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence, is for the sake of Christ, His Son, my God and my Father, in whom I so trust as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul; and further, that whatever evil He sends upon me in this valley of tears, He will turn to my good; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful Father. (Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 26)

 

Since our Creator created all things of nothing, then He is not like his creatures. A distinction must be made.  That which would make no sense when applied to any creature makes perfect sense when applied to God, for He is almighty, everywhere present, and the Creator and Sustainer of all.

He upholds the world and governs all things by His eternal counsel and providence.  This not only includes the good things, but it also includes calamity.  Nothing is outside of His decree.

The world then is neither governed by man’s free will, leaving us in chaos; nor is it governed by empty fate and determinism, for God is our Heavenly Father, who loves us and gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

It is true that the misery is in the world because of God’s judgment on the world.

But it is also true that God Himself entered into that misery in the person of Jesus Christ in order to save us from our sins and misery.

And He governs the world not by making us inhuman, but by awakening our full humanity, conforming it to the image of Christ.  He sweetly and irresistibly draws the will by His Holy Spirit, causing us to walk in newness of life.

If this is true, then the only proper response of a Christian towards suffering is mercy.

Perhaps this illness isn’t because there is sin in one’s life.

Perhaps this abuse isn’t because the wife just won’t submit.

Perhaps this couple were good and loving parents and their son was just rebellious.

Perhaps there is calamity in this world that we simply cannot prevent or cure.

And perhaps – just perhaps – the reason why the soccer coach abused the 8 year old girl actually had NOTHING TO DO with the 8 year old seducing him.  The fact that we have to say that sickens me.  Perhaps the reason that very nice soccer coach abused that girl was because he was an evil child of the devil, fit only for the flames of hell.

In other words, sin and misery and sickness and crime are not always things that we could have prevented if we worked harder, made better choices and tried more diligently.

In fact, if we could fix the world – if the doctors were as good as people think that they are, if child protective services could solve family problems, if the probation department could cure crime, if we could prevent all calamity, crime, illness, rebellion, poverty and hatred, then we wouldn’t need a savior at all.

But the facts are different.

Certainly avail yourself of every avenue that God has graciously provided to mitigate suffering.  God is merciful as well as just, and He does work through men and women to alleviate some of the misery in this world.  But justice and mercy in this world always leave us hungering for more, lifting our eyes to heaven when every tear will be dried, where justice will flow like water, and there will be no more curse.

For even though God has provided many good things, we still aren’t in heaven.  Suffering is still the lot of men and women throughout the world, and no amount of human effort will ever eradicate it.

People who are united to Christ by faith still get sick; are still abused and ridiculed; still die; still suffer the heartache of loss and reproach and still weep over injustice, cruelty and hatred.

A merciful man doesn’t give them a list of everything that they need to work on in order to protect and heal themselves.  Perhaps this isn’t even the issue.  Besides, the thinking that all men have the power to overcome all misery is humanism, not Christianity.

A merciful man weeps with those that weep.  He points the sufferer to Christ, who also suffered on this earth.  A merciful man reminds the sufferer that Christ’s suffering also seemed pointless and vain in the eyes of the world, but through those sufferings God defeated all the power of sin and the devil.  God has plans that we cannot fathom, since we are creatures and He is the Creator.  But He HAS promised that every calamity that he brings upon us He will turn to our good.  Whatever evils we have on this earth are not even worthy to be compared to the joy that is set before us.  A merciful man brings the comfort and the power of Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, the just judge over all the earth.

 

And a merciful man always does what he can to ease suffering wherever he is called and with whatever he possesses.  He is called to imitate God, who is merciful and kind, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy (Psalm 103).

A merciful man feeds the hungry instead of telling them to work harder.

He comforts and visits the sick, rather than lecture them on their lack of faith or how to change their diet.  Those who are sick have explored every possibility, believe me.

A merciful man throws out the scoffer, runs off the wolves, opens his home to the homeless sheep.

A merciful man will rescue the sheep from the mouth of the lion, even if the lion is married to the sheep.  He doesn’t tell the sheep to not thrash about so much while the lion is eating.

And most of all, the merciful man gives himself to prayer, intercedes for the outcast, the hungry, the sick and the suffering.  He actually labors in prayer, which is far different than saying, “Praying” in a note but not bothering to do it.  The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, James tells us.

If we suffer as Christ suffered, we may not be able to explain why.  We may not be able to solve it; we may not be able to save the world, or even ourselves – but where there is misery, there is also abundant grace.

Question 26 of the catechism doesn’t teach purposeless and fatalistic calamity.  It also doesn’t explain why calamity happens to God’s people.  It merely repeats the promise of the Bible.

Whatever evil He sends upon me in this valley of tears, He will turn to my good; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful Father.

 

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning (Psa 30:5).


God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn (Psa 46:5).

2 Comments

Filed under Sin and Grace

Go to Church

Over the past few months I have received heartbreaking emails from so many people.  There are those who have been abused at home and then abused again at their church.  Oftentimes churches are so concerned with budgets, power, control and numbers that they forget their commission.  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

And the wounded from these groups are outcast, driven away and the fold is taken over by the wolves.  They ask me, “What do I do?”

My heart weeps for them.  But the answer is always the same.  “Go to church”.

Let me put it this way.  If you could ask God anything at all, what would you ask Him?  Would you expect an answer?  There is a place where God has promised to meet with His people and has promised to hear their prayers and give an answer.  The problem is not God; the problem is that we don’t hear.  God speaks to us through the preaching of His Word.  And this happens at church.  Go to church.  There is a great banquet set for you each Sunday in Church and you are starving.  So go to church, and feast on the word of God.

Are you wounded?  Go to church.  Are you downhearted?  Go to church.  Are you fearful? Go to church.  Pour out your heart to the Lord.  Listen to His voice in the reading of the scripture and the preaching of the word.

I will readily agree with you, however, that not every group that calls itself a church is actually a church.  The vast majority are more concerned with numbers than with sheep; with programs, rather than obedience; with budgets rather than faithfulness.  Perhaps you have been attacked and wounded by one of these groups.

The church in the days of the Reformation struggled with the same issues and questions.  They also were outcast, excommunicated and considered evildoers, even criminals, by the vast majority of “churches”.  But then they realized something.  Not every group that calls itself a church is actually a church.  The Apostle John spoke of churches who had their candlestick removed.  It does happen.  Those churches that used to be full of life and now full of decay and ruin, and the voice of God is never heard.

Many groups today have a lot of activity, a lot of people, a lot of money and a great reputation.  But, to paraphrase Witsius, activity doesn’t mean life.  There is a lot of movement in a dead body.  Maggots and escaping gas from decomposition cause a lot of activity.  I would suggest to you that much of the activity that we see today is the decomposition and active decay of a dead body, that doesn’t know enough to give itself a decent burial.

If God requires us to go to church (see Hebrews 10:25) would He leave His people to guess where that church is to be found?  Would He have us join ourselves with a rotting corpse and promise to meet with us there?  We, who once were dead, have been made alive by the gospel.  Now we are to join with the living Church of God.  God expects that the living join themselves with the living. God Himself has told us how to distinguish a true church from a false one.  The Reformers saw this, and wrote in the Belgic Confession:

The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in chastening of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself (From Article 29).

 

And there it is.  A true church is not one with the youth group, the great band, the charismatic and relevant young and tall preacher; a true church is not the one with the fantastic programs, the large and comfortable building, the most current marketing.  A true church is not the one that does great concerts and revival programs.

The true church is where the Word of God is preached and everything contrary is rejected.  The sacraments are administered according to the Word of God.  The true church cares about the difference between wolves and sheep and are careful in their discipline.  They understand about protecting as well as feeding the sheep.

To often, we look for the wrong thing when we look for a church.  We always get what we are fishing for.  When we are fishing for a church that affirms our own opinion of ourselves, we get a church that also affirms the opinions of wicked and evil men.  When we fish for a church that seeks to cater to the spirit of the age, we get a church that caters to the spirit of the age and the prince of the power of the air.  That isn’t good, in case you were wondering.

But God’s voice is not heard in much activity.  Just like in Elijah’s day, the almighty, everywhere power of God is heard in the still, small voice.  A faithful pastor, in a small church with a few sheep – but full of the power of God.  Maybe the sound equipment is a bit faulty at times.  Maybe he doesn’t do a blog very well.  Maybe he isn’t the handsome media star who can captivate an audience by the power of his deep voice.

These aren’t the marks of a true pastor, and are not the marks of the true church.  Does he know what God’s word is?  Does he submit to the doctrine and authority of the One Holy Apostolic Church?  (In other words, what creed does he hold to and love?  Or does he change with the wind of opinion).

Don’t tell me that there aren’t any churches anymore.  Even in the days of Elijah, God reserved 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.  It is more likely that we are not looking in the right place.  Do you need to change what you have considered important and bring it in line with God’s word?

Sometimes, you might have to move.  This sounds drastic in an age where we look at schools, work, location, weather, shopping and neighborhoods to make our decisions and figure that we can find a church after we get there.  But what if there are none?

Haggai rebuked the people of Israel for seeking the things of the world first and when that was sorted out, then they would take care of God’s worship (Haggai 1).  But they had it backwards.  Worship comes first.  Everything else flows from there.

Go to church.  Put everything else aside.  Find where God’s sheep are meeting and join with them.  Sit quietly.  Learn about God, about yourself, about mankind, about Christ.

Learn about the forgiveness of sins, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.  Learn about the imputed righteousness of Christ.  Learn about patience, about resting as a weaned child on the lap of the mother. Feast on the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Sacraments.  Stop going to the dead and decaying body, more interested in sound and fury, and learn to hear the still, small voice of God in the faithful preaching of the word, by weak, humble and godly men who know the difference between good and evil.

Go to church.  Do whatever it takes.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grace and Cruelty, continued

This Sunday (July 13, 2014) I am intending to preach on Colossians 2:6-10.
My mind is whirling. There is a much debated blog intended to be a guide for women married to ungodly (or very ungodly) men. I have previously written concerning just one issue, although there are many others.

Some of those who have commented on the blog have challenged the opposition (of which I am one) to provide a Biblical answer instead of emotional appeals. My previous blog was based upon 1 Corinthians 7 and Romans 13, as well as other passages.

But my mind still whirls. You see, I am not a “proof-texter.” Instead, I believe that the whole of Scripture is the work of One Author, and has one message, from beginning to end. The message of the Bible is nothing else than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The modern church chops the Bible up into unrelated verses and sentences, and will frequently come to some rather strange conclusions. One of these strange conclusions that captivates the hearts of American Christians I will call neo-Marcionism.

Marcion was a second century heretic. I know that “heresy” is an unused term, but it is a good one. Marcion taught that the Jehovah God of the Old Testament was evil, truly the devil. And Jesus Christ was the true God who appeared to Adam and Eve in the form of the serpent and then came again to rescue men and women from the tyranny of the Old Testament God.

The recent movie, Noah, as I understand it, was based upon the teachings of Marcion. But that is neither here nor there.

Neo-marcionism posits a complete disconnect between the god of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament. It rears its head every time you hear someone say, “Oh. That’s Old Testament. It isn’t relevant to us today.”

This, like all Marcionism, leads to the bondage of the devil and an outright denial of the heart of the Gospel.

One thing that is very clear throughout the Old Testament is this: God never, ever, treats anyone more or less than they deserve. His justice cannot be denied, and all of his works are equity and truth. Note well the following passages:

For he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity (Psalm 98:9).

“Yet the house of Israel says,`The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?’” (Ezekiel 18:29)

God cannot change. He cannot deny his justice or his equity. This means that he will always treat men and women exactly as they deserve.

This is not good news for man, for man is sinful, and God will never acquit the guilty (Nahum 1:3).

But God is also merciful. He loves to show lovingkindness and tender mercy to the children of men.

The great question of the Bible is this: How can God save man without denying justice and equity? How can God save us when he says “The soul that sins shall die” and we are all sinners?

To understand the Gospel, you must also understand the hopeless situation that man was in. God is a righteous judge who will never, ever, treat men and women unfairly, for He cannot. And the law declares that we are all guilty before a just and holy God.

But then angels appeared and announced the birth of a Child. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”

If God cannot ever bless an unrighteous man, there is only one way for us to be blessed by God. We have to be righteous. So the most important question anyone can ask themselves is this: “How can I be righteous before God?”

The answer of the Bible is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You have to have a righteousness that is not your own.

This has been confessed repeatedly by the faithful, and is included in every confession of faith written by the orthodox. My favorite expression of this great truth is in the Heidelberg Catechism:

60. How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

61. Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?
Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God; and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.

This is the only way that God can be reconciled to man. Man must become righteous and must pay the penalty for his sin. But we cannot do it, for we daily increase our guilt. So God became flesh in the womb of Mary and fulfilled the law in our place, and took the penalty of the wrath of God in our place.

By faith, we are in Christ. His obedience was our obedience; His righteousness is our righteousness; His death was our death; His life is our life.

This is the heart of the gospel.

But the neo-marcion has subtly changed this. The prevailing view is not that God’s justice was completely satisfied; but that God decided to be nicer and not so cruel. God, they say, was tired of all of that justice stuff and started to forgive instead.

But what they forget is that God cannot ever change, nor can he ever be unjust. The only reason that we have hope of eternal life, the only reason that we have peace with God, is that God now considers us to be righteous, because the righteousness of Jesus Christ was imputed to us and our sins were imputed to Him.

Because of this John can write, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I john 1:9)

How can it possibly be just, fair or equal for God to forgive sin? Only by a clear understanding of the Gospel can we see it. When we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness by faith and our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ, then it would be the highest injustice for God to punish us in hell, for punishment has already taken place on the cross.

A righteous man suffering in hell is a tremendous injustice, and God is not unjust. In Christ, it is “as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me.”

But the devil always attacks this. “You don’t deserve God’s love.”
“Look at your filthy garments. How can God love you?”

And this leaves us wide open to the vain philosophies of men which seek to cheat us of the reward of Christ.

Paul writes, “You are complete in Him”.

First, we are complete. We are filled. Every spiritual blessing is ours – forgiveness of sin, everlasting righteousness and life. We are fully accepted in the beloved, because we are righteous before God by faith. It would be unjust for God to punish our sins for he already punished them in Christ and we are in Him by faith. The Holy Spirit is ours, creating in us clean hearts and working in us, conforming us to the image of Christ. 

But the devil is always there to point out how far short we come, trying to point us either to despair, or to works-righteousness, desperately trying to match a standard that we cannot possibly achieve.

And, second, we are complete in Him. It is true that we cannot ever fulfill the law, nor can we make a sacrifice for sin. Christ did it all in our place.

We either fall too far one way, denying that Christ did it all; or fall too far the other way, saying that it hasn’t been done.
The scripture teaches that we are righteous before God by faith.
It also teaches that this righteousness is not earned or accomplished by us, but by Christ.

To deny either one of those is to deny the heart of the gospel.

Look, then, at the previously mentioned blog:
Q11. How good a husband is my husband to me?
A11. Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Dear daughter of God, if you are in Christ by faith, then you no longer deserve eternal wrath and punishment, but you are deserving of eternal life and every spiritual blessing, as if you had never committed nor had any sin.
Did you earn this? Did you actually do any of these good works? Of course not. Personally, you have rebelled and sinned grievously against God.

But to continue to believe that you do not deserve eternal life is to deny the Lord who bought you. Jesus paid it all. It is all done. His righteousness is given to you and your sins were nailed to the cross.

As a child of God, you are an heir to the promise of God.

Don’t forget that your husband is commanded to deal with you as an heir to eternal life (1 Peter 3:7); no longer a sinner, but as a co-heir of eternal life.

Don’t ever let the devil tell you that you don’t deserve it. The Holy Spirit points out sins to us to draw us closer to God in repentance and faith, comforting us by the gospel; the devil and his children point out sins to leave us in despair – hopeless, and doubting the goodness of God and the salvation that He has freely given to us.

Don’t let the devil do to you what he tried to do to Joshua (Read Zechariah 3). Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.(Col. 2:6-7)

For you husbands, please hear the words of Peter, who commands you to deal with your wives as co-heirs of eternal life. Because she is in Christ, because an inheritance awaits her, purchased by Jesus Himself, everything that you do with her is far less than she deserves, not far more.

No matter how well you treat her, her reward will only come (by grace, never by merit) when Jesus comes again. Treat her as a daughter of God.

Next time you belittle her, strike her, cut her down, insult her, or even cause her tears, remind yourself how Jesus promises to deal with those who mistreat his children.

If you say, “It’s better than she deserves”, you have denied Christ, denied the gospel, and harmed one of God’s children.

I would seriously and urgently plead with you to repent before Jesus comes again to bring vindication and justice to His people.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

God’s grace an excuse for cruelty??

A pastor’s primary function is to preach and teach God’s word to the sheep that Jesus has placed in his care.  In order to do this effectively, he must be a lover of language. He must become a master of communication.  Not, indeed, the language of the world wielded by the manipulators of rhetoric, but as a steward of the treasure that God has placed in his care.  The ungodly man uses language to manipulate people, to get people to act in a way that he wishes them to act.  As Christians, however, we must learn how to use language in order to convey truth clearly and effectively.  But unfortunately, pastors frequently become manipulators of people instead of preachers of truth.

To be a God-pleasing preacher of truth, a pastor must understand two things:

First, he must understand what God teaches in His word.  Good seminaries drill this into the heads of their students with original language classes, systematics, apologetics, Old and New Testament survey classes, exegesis classes, and other offerings.

But unfortunately this is not enough.  A man may be an expert in the meaning and theology of the scripture and be completely unable to communicate that effectively, for he has not yet understood the English language.  Through poor choices of words, truth is skewered and equity is fallen in the streets.

So the second thing that a pastor must understand in order to communicate God’s word effectively is how the English language works and how to put the truth of God’s word into accurate language to be understood clearly by his audience.  The goal in communicating truth is to speak in such a way that the ideas in the speaker’s head are transferred to the mind of the hearer with as little loss as possible.  We may think that we are communicating one thing, when in fact our hearers hear something else entirely.  If pastors do not understand this, their work will be ineffective at best and outright harmful to the soul at worst.

A word in any language may have different nuances or even different meanings altogether depending upon the context of the word.

Take the word “love”.  I saw a car with two bumper stickers.  One said, “I love my Golden Retriever.” The other said, “I love Jesus.”    Same car; same bumper.

What the owner of the car was attempting to communicate was lost to me.  Two abstract thoughts, one referring to the affection that a man feels for his dog, and the other a religious affection for our Lord and Savior, were both denotated by the same word: “love”.  Two thoughts.  One word.

At the very least, I would hope that in the mind of the car owner these were two separate ideas.  But perhaps he meant that his love for his dog was exactly identical (univocal) to the love that he has for Jesus, in which case we would have to charge him with polytheism, in the same way that you would charge a man with bestiality for loving his dog and loving his wife univocally.

For those who may think that I am splitting hairs, or using ridiculous examples, I would like to remind you that we are currently inundated with predators and pedophiles who use the same techniques to cover their horrendous and vile actions.  I take great offence at the North American Man/Boy Love
Association for using the word “love” to describe their filthy lusts, hoping that our refusal to analyze language will give them a pass.  But do not be deceived.  What they mean by “love” and what I mean by “love” are two different things entirely.

A recent blog, A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism  commits a similar error, with similar deadly consequences for the truth of the Gospel.

You can find some excellent refutations here.

I have much to say.  But I will limit my comments to only one question of this catechism:

Q11.    How good a husband is my husband to me?

A11.    Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Here the writer makes a deadly error.  Here we see the error of using a word with several different meanings as if it only had one meaning.  Let me illustrate:

What he is saying in effect is this:  Because I deserve eternal punishment in hell for my sins, it follows that I deserve to take whatever injustice and abuse that my husband wishes to dish out to me.

But does this follow, or is it possible that the English word “deserve” has different meanings depending on the context?

In Shakespeare’s great tragedy Hamlet, Hamlet the Prince asks Polonius to take the newly arrived actors to their accommodations and make sure they had what they needed for their comfort.  Polonius replied, “I will treat them according to their desert.”

Hamlet replied, “God’s bodkin, man, much better!  Treat every man according to his desert and who shall ‘scape whipping?”

Hamlet has made the same error.  Polonius was merely speaking of giving them the accommodations and amenities that their station and their labors warranted.  Hamlet then replied, swearing by the bodkin, or dagger, of God, referring to their standing as sinners before the Throne of God. But the desert of the actors at the hands of Polonius and the desert of the actors at the hands of God are two different things!

Are we to believe that since no one has ever earned any favor from God whatsoever, but has received every good thing by grace alone that it would therefore follow that my boss can withhold my paycheck from me, since I deserve far worse?

If the blogger in question would be consistent with his univocal use of the word “deserve”, we would expect the following exchange:  “My employer has robbed me of my wages.  What should I do?”

Answer, “Rejoice that you have received far more than you deserve and continue to work for him with a meek and quiet spirit.  Don’t make a fuss.”

Take it one step further:  “My family was slaughtered by a wicked man.”

Answer: “It was better than they deserved.  Let it go, and don’t make a fuss.  No need to involve the police.”

It is indeed true that God’s mercy can never be earned – or deserved.  We increase our guilt daily before God.  We are fallen sinners.  Unless we are born again, we deserve nothing but eternal wrath and damnation.  This is taught clearly throughout Scripture.

(Eph 2:8-9 KJV)  8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

But this is speaking of our standing before the Judgment Throne of God.  It does not follow that we therefore deserve to be treated with cruelty, hatred and dishonor by wicked men.

If the grace of God can be used to justify injustice and cruelty, then words no longer have any meaning.

From the hand of God we always and continually receive far more that we can ever merit or “deserve”, for even the best works in this life are all polluted by sin.

Does it then follow that we do not deserve kindness, love, respect and honor from our fellow man?  Not according to the Bible.

Consider the following passage:

(Rom 13:7-8 KJV)  7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

God teaches here that there are those who deserve our taxes, our honor, and our tribute.  But then in verse 8, he carries the argument further:  We owe all men love.  Not the love of the world, but love defined by the law of God.

For a husband, we owe our wives the same love with which Christ loved his church.  Does she earn it?  Of course not.  But does she deserve it?  She certainly does.

In another place, Paul teaches that husbands and wives are both owed benevolence – they deserve it because they are husband and wife:

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

If it were not possible to treat our wives worse than they deserve, as this blog implies, then it would not be possible to defraud your wife, and Paul’s command would make no sense (1 Cor. 7:5).  Paul’s argument depends upon the Biblical truth that a husband owes his wife benevolence (favor, good-will, sexual intimacy).  To put it passively, she deserves it because she is his wife.  To withhold those things is to defraud her – or to treat her less than she deserves – directly contrary to the statement made by this blogger.

To the beloved daughters of God, do not allow your husband to treat you less than you deserve as his wife.  On the same token, do not treat your husband less than he deserves as your husband.  God requires equity in our dealings, not fuzzy appeals to misunderstood grace.

Equity means that we treat others fairly, or as they deserve.  Fulfill those obligations and remember that you have a right to expect the same in all of your relationships.  This is what a covenant of marriage is.  We are in a covenant and there are covenant obligations.  A husband owes his wife the fulfillment of his vows, and she deserves that fulfillment, because she is his wife.

If I make a contract, the other party deserves for me to fulfill my end.  Why is marriage any different?

Let us exegete scripture correctly, lest we become prey for the devil, and expose ourselves to the abuses of wicked men.

To affirm the covenant of marriage is to affirm the obligations of that covenant.  The husband deserves for the wife to fulfill her vow, and the wife deserves for the husband to fulfill his vow.  Neither party deserves to be treated with abuse, cruelty, violence and hatred.

The Bible also teaches that a husband or a wife can behave in such a monstrous way that they ultimately forfeit the benefits of this covenant, but that is another post for another time.

I have much more to say, but I have wearied the reader enough for the day.

10 Comments

Filed under Abuse

Sorry for the delay

In the life of a pastor, sometimes you just don’t have time to write as much as you would like.
It was my intention to keep this blog going, be interesting and hopefully edifying.
It is still my intention.
I hope you will bear with me.
I so greatly appreciate all of your support and I promise that I have not forgotten.
But there is family to care for, sheep to tend, sermons to prepare, students to encourage and stimulate – and sometimes what you want to do has to take a back seat to the work that our Lord calls us to do.
I have something rattling around my now fifty year old skull that I shall attempt to put on pixels tomorrow.
Of course, we know how that goes at times, do we not?

Sam

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized