So rape is only punishable by a fine?

blur close up focus gavel

Sometimes I wish atheists would ask a christian for help in finding better verses to object to in scripture.  They tend to be very bad theologians.  The silly passages many choose as something to contend with is in my opinion one of the strongest apologetics against atheism.  One of the most popular is Deuteronomy 22:29.  I’ve heard this objection my whole life, but a quick google search didn’t disappoint, here are two random examples….

 

“Hebrew girl who is raped can be sold to her rapist for 50 shekels, or about $580 (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). He must then keep her “because she has been “humbled”. – The Independent

 

“4) Laws of Rape (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NAB)

If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father.  Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

What kind of lunatic would make a rape victim marry her attacker?  Answer: God.” – EvilBible.Com

 

I would like to point out that the writer in the second quote is at best badly paraphrasing the NAB, check for yourself HERE.

I have pasted the whole passage below and included some of the context.  Let’s take a look at it.

 

“But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her. “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days. ‘Deut 22:25-29 ESV

 

Setting aside how badly this passage is represented by the sources I cited at the outset, let’s break down what it actually says.  The first thing I want to  point out is that the genre of law gives us legal categories to work with, these aren’t supposed to be interpreted as narrowly specific examples of things that really happened.  This is giving categories for an old covenant Judge to render a proper judgement.

What we are given here is juxtaposition of sexual sin and how evidence should be weighed against claims when determining who is at fault as well as the severity of punishments necessary.  In the first example we have no witnesses to the event itself because it is “in the open country” but we do have character witnesses for the woman because she “is betrothed”.  Someone has vouched for her chastity, so basically that’s admissible as evidence in this case.  Presuming she isn’t admitting complicity in the crime she would be judged as wholly innocent of the sin of fornication according to this directive.

In old covenant law it would seem his word of how the events transpired is not simply equal to hers, I would theorize that a mans physical advantage and assumed desire for a woman are both factors against him no matter what the context is.

With regards to the second example we have a case where it is not in the open country and there are not witnesses for her chastity.  The assumption here is they are both guilty of fornication so it has to be made right by marriage and the payment of a fine.

It would be an anachronism to assume a post 1960’s sexual revolution category of consent into this passage.  That said, even if you did it doesn’t do much for the judge who is using this law in old covenant Israel.  They will only have the presence or absence of any evidence corroborating claims that are being made after the fact and will primarily be focusing on adjudicating the sin of fornication, in which case rape would simply mean innocence on the part of the woman.

When you get down to it this isn’t that different than how a judge weighs out the law today.  Some categories of evidence and admissible,  some are not.  The judge is given categories and ranges of punishment and they work from there.  Even though our laws are not the same as those in the old covenant the style is similar in structure and application.  It’s entirely likely we got the fundamental ideas of our legal system from scripture anyways.

Final Thoughts

All I’m saying is if you’re going to criticize the Bible pick better stuff.  Things like this just make you look dumb.  Christians have spent the better part of two thousand years arguing over how to properly interpret some of the more complex teachings of scripture.  If you want some fodder of what to start with then start there, no need to re-invent the wheel.  At least then the conversation would be more interesting for both parties and you wouldn’t look silly in the process.

Posted in Armchair Lounge, Frequently Twisted Passages | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The weird sacramentarian sacramental system in Joshua Harris former Church

 

grayscale photography of chessboard game

This will probably be my last post on Joshua Harris recent announcement of leaving the faith.  For those who don’t know, the word sacramentarian refers to someone who believes the sacraments are only symbolic.  These days they will generally use the term ordinance instead of sacrament altogether.  The word sacramental refers to someone who believes the sacraments are not symbolic.  So my title is a play on words on multiple levels that I will explain in the course of this post.

I think based on the sources I’ve read that the Sovereign Grace Ministries quasi sacramental view on sanctification  contributed to the sex abuse scandal as much as the false teachings on church government did.  Not as directly, but taken together as a system.

To effectively make the case here I want to give a brief overview of Roman Catholic beliefs as I understand them.

Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholics believe in original sin, in fact, they are generally more orthodox on that than a lot of protestants are these days.  They believe that you are born deserving death and hell and that the sacrament of holy baptism washes this away.

As you progress in your life you accumulate both mortal and venial sins.  The latter would be the most common.  My understanding is that venial sins add to the time in purgatory you will need to be cleansed by fire after you die, but they don’t actually damn you to hell or cause you to lose your salvation.  Mortal sins however are believed to remove you from the faith entirely and you have to confess to a priest and receive the Eucharist to be restored.

To speak plainly, they basically believe you have to go to church every week.  When you do that you receive the sacraments, you get a little extra grace, your time in purgatory for venial sins is reduced, and your mortal sins are forgiven.  In their understanding, if you continue in this process your whole life the degree of grace you end up receiving may even place you in the category of sainthood in which you go straight to heaven and skip purgatory altogether.

Should you forget to confess a venial sin then that sin goes unforgiven and your purgatory time does not reduce.  If you fail to confess a mortal sin then you’re going to hell.  Indulgences can be obtained to receive blanket forgiveness for either category of forgotten sins.  My understanding is they don’t sell indulgences for money anymore, so that’s nice.

hamster-wheel-1014047_960_720

If you think that a picture of running on a mouse wheel is a good image of what I just described then we think a lot alike.  Why am I brining up Rome though?  They don’t really have anything to do with Sovereign Grace Ministries.  After all, SGM is a protestant organization.

Back to SMG…

To answer that question I am going to lean heavily on a post put out by SGM Survivors.   Below is an analysis of SGM beliefs published by their blog, I am quoting it here in case the site ever goes away.  But I encourage you to give them a click HERE just to give them some traffic even if you’re going to read it on my blog.  I will bold out in black and red areas that are most critical if you just want to skim.

 

While I am the first to say that any coverup of sex abuse is horrific and evil, particularly when done by a church, I think it would be interesting to explore the mindset behind any such coverup.

What is it about their SGM training that would make SGM pastors respond to abusers in such a way?  Why would SGM pastors appear to extend more grace to perpetrators than to victims?  Why would SGM pastors believe that they should be the primary source of counsel and support for perpetrators?  Why would SGM pastors exhibit a reluctance to get outside help or call upon law enforcement to deal with such perpetrators?

It’s my opinion that SGM’s twisted teachings about sin and the role of the pastor – as well as SGM’s blurring of the lines between “the gospel” and “the SGM church organization” – are what have led to situations where these sorts of crimes seem to be minimized, and perpetrators quickly restored to good standing within congregations.

First of all, SGM holds to the (in my opinion essentially correct and biblical) belief that all problems faced by humanity can be traced back to sin. I say I think it’s an “essentially correct and biblical belief” because if we dig through all the layers of human suffering and misery and downright evil, we are left with almost no other choice but to conclude that humanity is messy because humanity is fallen and sinful.

However, where I would part ways with SGM’s assumption is where SGM’s essentially correct belief about sin morphs into what SGM believes is the remedy for sin.

In SGM’s teachings – and if I wanted to take more time to develop this, I could go back and dig up plenty of quotes from books like Why Small Groups and sermons like CJ’s Happiest Place On Earth, as well as plenty of other resources that are available for the whole world to read and hear – the problem of sin is seen as being addressed by not just the work of Jesus on the cross and His continued presence with us through the Holy Spirit.  SGM would say that Jesus’ work on the cross is now being “finished” or “completed” by how Christians relate to a “local” church and how Christians are affected by the work of the pastors in their lives.

In the book Why Small Groups? (available as a free download here) a case is laid out like this:

1.  Yes, salvation is through Christ alone, through his atoning sacrifice.

2.  Salvation, however, is separate from sanctification.

4.  Although, sanctification WILL result anytime someone is “truly saved.”

5.  Sanctification cannot happen apart from “biblical fellowship.”  I actually am going to go and dig up a quote to back this one up.  From Chapter 1 of Why Small Groups? comes this:

“Although one’s personal responsibility for sanctification remains paramount, sanctification cannot be accomplished in isolation from the local church. Scripture clearly teaches that sanctification is intended to take place in the local church—and small groups contribute invaluably to this process.”

You can read the whole chapter to get an even better feel for how thoroughly CJ and his cohorts view participation in “biblical fellowship” a completely essential element of a person’s sanctification.

6.  A key componant of “biblical fellowship” is interacting with people in a way where they freely confront you about your sin and where you humbly submit to others’ assessment of your sin.  I would strongly urge people to read Why Small Groups? if they have not already done so, and examine how narrowly and explicitly “biblical fellowship” is defined, and how it almost cannot take place anywhere but in a small group set up and run the way SGM runs small groups.

(By the way – this principle is FOUNDATIONAL if anyone wants to understand the driving force behind Brent Detwiler’s seeming obsession with confronting CJ in his sinsIn the SGM mindset, a lack of willingness to submit to others’ assessment of your sin and to acknowledge your sins when confronted with them is almost a sign that you are out of fellowship with God.  If we can grasp this, we can understand why in Brent’s mind, CJ’s unwillingness to be confronted was so utterly grievous and dismaying.  And why Brent continued his pursuit so doggedly…even as he talked about “grace,” which most Christians understand as letting someone off the hook.  In SGM thinking, true “grace” must involve sticking with the confrontation no matter what, because unwillingness to acknowledge one’s sins when confronted would be a sign that the person is not being sanctified…which is a sign that the person could maybe not even be saved!)

7.  Also, SGM believes that another essential part of “biblical fellowship” is a person’s continued oversight from his pastor, who also bears the responsibility to continue to confront the person on his sin.  SGMers are taught that pastors, by virtue of their higher calling and “gifting,” possess special abilities to perceive a person’s sins more accurately than the person himself.  You can read a transcript of C.J. Mahaney’s Happiest Place On Earthsermon here.  C.J. has traveled around the country, delivering that sermon to many SGM churches over the years.  While (once again) Dave Harvey would now apparently like people to think that SGM does not teach that pastors have special authority over people, that is simply not true.

8.  Essential to the SGM understanding of the gospel is a demonstration that one remains keenly aware of one’s “worst sinner one knows” status.  I realize that this comment is already excruciatingly long, but I really want to lay this all out in one place, so I’m going to quote from another post:

Deeply embedded in the SGM mindset are some assumptions:

1. All sins are just as vile in the eyes of God.

2. One of the clearest signs of “rebellion” is when a person sees himself as an injured party, because no injury that can be perpetrated against the person could ever surpass the horror that the person’s own sin is in the eyes of God.

3. The clearest sign of a “repentant” person is eager confession of wrongdoing.

Taking those three SGM assumptions, let’s examine Noel’s pastors’ response to her family’s situation. In light of these assumptions, I think we can more clearly understand a bit of what went through those pastors’ minds as they offered more sympathy and support to the perp rather than the victims. Even though the pastoral responses are basically incomprehensible to a normal person, they sort of start to make sense when you think of it in this way:

Because of SGM’s belief that each of us must always be “the worst sinner that we ourselves know,” we basically give up our rights to ANY victimhood, no matter how heinous the crime committed against us.

In other words, even though what happened to Noel’s family was absolutely horrific, SGM’s foundational teachings would say that Noel’s only legitimate “biblical” response would be to examine her own sinfulness and see herself as “the worst sinner” she knows. Her pastors would see it as their duty to direct Noel’s attention first of all to her own indwelling sin, her own wretchedness in God’s eyes. I believe they sincerely think that this is “bringing the Gospel into” everything they do. For them, “the Gospel” is firstly and foremostly about our own sin.

But instinctively, we know that something is jacked up in this view. God’s own Word would tell us that He does see some sins as having broader and more lasting consequences than other sins. Yes, all sin is an abomination in God’s eyes…theoretically. But we all know the REALITY, that if I go out and kill someone, there are far more ramifications all the way around than if I lie by calling in sick to work one day when I’m not actually sick and just want to go shopping with my friends. Both the murder and the lie are sins in God’s eyes and both are wretched, but if you lie to me, I’m probably going to be less upset than if you kill someone near and dear to me.

In SGMville, though, this normal human reaction – one that the even the Bible would seem to support, if you examine how God outlined so many very specific laws and guidelines governing behavior for Old Testament Israel – is circumvented. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been the victim of a liar or a murderer. In your SGM pastor’s mind, you’ve got NO RIGHT to see yourself as a victim, of any sort. In order to “bring the Gospel in,” they’re duty-bound to remind you of your own sinfulness, like it’s some sort of tonic for the normal grief that you might feel because of the ramifications of the sin that was perpetrated against you…like somehow, if I as the victim can just focus on my own badness, I’ll forget that someone molested my child.

So OK. In SGMville, all sins are created equal.

Now, enter the perp. Perp expresses sorrow and remorse for his sin. He truly IS the “worst sinner that he knows,” so such a mindset comes easily and naturally to him. In the eyes of his SGM pastors, he automatically then becomes the “more righteous” person, since his response is the only “truly biblical” repsonse that they can find acceptable.

It gets worse if the victim stands up for himself/herself in any fashion. SGM pastors immediately see this as unforgiveness, which of course is a sin, which then makes the victim even WORSE than the remorseful (and therefore righteous) perp.

Again, I did not think of this myself. Someone else initially posted these general thoughts. But I thought these were some brilliant observations that did far more to shed light on Noel’s pastors’ really twisted and bizarre behavior than just about anything else.

To me, this helps to make sense of why, in SGMville, the victims are minimized while the perps are protected. It’s because in SGMville, the only thing that is really righteous is seeing oneself as “the worst sinner one knows.” If one has had a crime – particularly a heinous crime like child abuse – perpetrated against one, there is NO HONEST WAY that one can authentically and enthusiastically embrace “worst sinner” status in one’s thinking. One instinctively knows that someone else’s sin (in this case, one’s perp’s sin) is greater than one’s own sin. So one naturally raises objections to embracing “worst sinner” status.

SGM pastors sense this and seem to hone in on it, interpreting standing up for oneself as a sign of pride and sin and unforgiveness.

Meanwhile, the perp is over in his corner crying his genuine tears of sorrow. Because he truly IS the “worst sinner he knows” at that moment, he is more righteous, and hence more worthy of protection.

9.  We have to factor in SGM’s longstanding distrust of and total disdain for the mental health profession.  SGM has long taught that “secular psychology” has absolutely nothing to offer the believer in terms of solving problems.  (You can see what was taught to SGM pastors fairly recently – in 2009 – about the “counseling process” by viewing a transcript of that talk.  Access Part 1 herePart 2 here, and Part 3 here.)

Anyway, to connect the dots of all this to the situations where SGM pastors were aware of sex abuse and seem to do nothing to address the problem legally…

If all problems are sin issues, and if the only solution to all sin issues (sanctification) must involve continued “biblical fellowship,” which – most importantly – includes continued confrontation from a pastor about one’s sins…

And if “secular psychology” presents no way for this to continue, but a pastor’s counsel does…

And if a perpetrator has acknowledged his sin to his pastor…

And if it is un-Christian (“sinful”) to ever feel like one has the right to be a total victim, with no corresponding need to focus on one’s own sin…

Then it makes total sense for the SGM pastor to:

1.  Appear to side with the perpetrator.

2.  Believe that his pastoral counsel is all that is needed.

3.  Believe that he is actually better serving the victim through his position, because he is making it more difficult for the victim to pursue what would be sin – i.e. being a victim and “demonstrating unforgiveness” by pursuing justice through the legal system.

4.  Consequently believe that through all of this, he is “protecting the gospel” or some such, because the SGM gospel is all about confronting and rooting out sin, never having the right to be a victim, and demonstrating one’s salvation status by the sanctification process of confessing one’s sins – which a perpetrator has already done, therefore making the perpetrator “more sanctified” than someone who is trying to get justice as a victim.

 

Wow!

What a twisted net of false teachings!!

 

Compare that treadmill to the Roman Catholic one at the outset.  I’m gonna tell you if my only options were to take my family to one of those two I would go Catholic, their system is more doable.  I basically just have to go to church in that system and then maybe procure and indulgence before I die.  I already go to church so that sounds a lot easier to me than gauging my subjective sanctification progress on the whims of my small group leader.  If a reformation was necessary for Catholicism how much more necessary is it for some of these outlandish “protestant” sects?

It appears to me that Sovereign Grace Ministries gives you the gospel with one hand regarding justification (as Rome does with baptism) and takes it back with sanctification (as Rome does with mortal sins).

I agree with the authors analysis that when you look at the pieces as a whole this makes a system that punishes victims and raises up perpetrators.  I would also add that instead of church being a place where the gospel is heard and the sacraments administered, you basically have an apostasy machine with a gospel nugget bouncing around that I hope some at least found.

Final Thoughts

Why did they feel the need to create this machine though?  I am sacramental in my views.  In my opinion, God knows we need sacraments.  He knows that humans are as material in nature as they are immaterial and thus have need for both.  When God gives forgiveness to us attached to something material we have an objective confirmation of receiving forgiveness that comforts both the body and the soul.  The same gospel preached that you subjectively receive with the ears you also objectively receive with the mouth.

I also understand that many protestant traditions are sacramentarian.  It would appear though that at least in the case of SGM, they still felt the need to have something more material to cling to and replaced the biblical sacraments with unbiblical ones.  Instead of looking to receiving Christ in the Eucharist they would navel gaze and look to each other.  At the end of the day this replaces the gospel with the law, no wonder it led to pain and despair.  Compound that with their purity teachings and it’s even worse.

I’m not going to expect every reader to agree with me.  That said, I do think it’s fair for me to insist that if you’re going to be a sacramentarian then do it like Zwingli did.  Don’t go replacing the sacraments with something else you just invented all on your own.  Just do without the material and cling only to the immaterial, even if it feels frustrating to you its better than all this SGM mess.

Posted in Armchair Lounge, Heresy & Heterodoxy, Joshua Harris | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on the sex abuse scandal in Sovereign Grace Ministries

alone man person sadness

The news of Joshua Harris apostasy has centered mostly around the book he was famous for writing. While I think there is a connection between the interpretive methodology that was the basis of his book and how the scandal came about, I don’t think the book itself isn’t the actual reason Joshua Harris left the faith.

I wrote about my thoughts on his book and purity culture which you can find HERE. This post will be talking about the false teachings that I think are the root cause of the sex abuse scandal.

You can read the full article of what I’m quoting below HERE.

“Pastors Joshua Harris and C.J. Mahaney left the leadership council of The Gospel Coalition, a central hub for the Reformed evangelical movement, after a trial involving child abuse at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., which both men have overseen.

A criminal trial that concluded last week raised questions about what pastors at Covenant Life knew about the abuse and why steps weren’t taken to stop it.

Nathaniel Morales, 56, was convicted Thursday (May 15 2014) of sexually abusing three underage boys between 1983 and 1991 when he was a youth leader at Covenant Life.”…..

…..Mahaney founded Covenant Life in 1977 and now leads Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Ky., which is also the home of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a national association of 80 Reformed evangelical churches.”

Wikipedia seems to offer more details on the lawsuits regarding an alleged cover-up conspiracy. I’d caution that we be skeptical with wikipedia as anyone can write for it. Still worth a look though.

“In late 2012, a lawsuit in Montgomery County, Maryland was brought against Sovereign Grace Ministries for a conspiracy to cover-up child sex abuse. The plaintiffs claimed that church leaders, including Mahaney, did not report accusations of misconduct to the police.” – Wikipedia

Something that should be made clear, Joshua Harris wasn’t accused of the sex abuse. What does seem to be the case is that people accused the leadership of his Church network of covering up a crime, and by his own admission, he was central to facilitating the fallout of the whole mess. I can’t speak to the facts of this case and won’t bother to speculate. The question I want to ask and answer is this…

Can a fundamentalist approach to scripture push a leader to cover up sex abuse in the church?

If so, is it reasonable to believe that’s what may have happened here?

Before I interact with these questions I need to define my terms. What do I mean by fundamentalist? I touched on it in an older post which you can find HERE but I’m going to make it clear once again. When I say fundamentalist, I mean someone who is willing to abrogate one passage of clear scripture with another.

Doing so places the fundamentalist as the authority over interpretation of scripture. It’s better than liberalism in the sense that a fundamentalist is still curbed by the passages they believe in, but it can result in harmful false teachings depending on which passages they choose to abrogate.

When some say fundamentalist they simply mean someone who still believes the Bible is the Word of God. My usage of the term is not that broad.

Let me give a practical example of what I’m talking about. Read this passage carefully,

“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 ESV

Paul is teaching above that we need to keep our grievances in house. I think a good passage to read this alongside is Matt 18.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ‘ Matthew 18:15-17 ESV

The idea is we should try to work things out in house as much as we can. This teaching needs to be balanced with others in scripture though. In another place Paul is clear that we should submit to governing authorities. Take a look….

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:1-4 ESV

The government is given to be a curb against sin in society, it’s a good thing for us to have that. Even in the church this applies at one point or another. The curb against sin applies to one degree or another anywhere actual sin exists.

Where do we draw the line between when to keep something ‘in house’ and when we are to invoke the institutions of civil government? There’s room for interpretation there and reasonable people can disagree to a certain extent. I think it depends on the context, nature, and severity of the issue. But if the issue has reached the category of an actual crime then it’s time to call the police.

That said when it comes to rape, especially involving a child, getting the police involved as soon as possible should be obvious. The thing that really concerns me when I read the stories coming out of sovereign grace ministries is that when the parents learn their kids are being raped their first thought is to call the pastor. I understand the need for pastoral care, but that can wait until after you’ve called the police. Even the pagan know that raping is bad enough to deserve the sword of government.

In the stories I’ve read the parents and authority figures all seem to believe that even if allegations of child molestation arise one has to keep that in house. The pastor is the one handling that situation and you’re sinning if you call the police because that’s not a forgiving thing to do.

Ridiculous!

You can find more details on these stories HERE along with more context on the spiderweb of beliefs involved. I am going to link to two specifically though and quote a tiny bit that I want to zero in on.

“I was praised up and down for not calling the police but for contacting them first, for being a “Godly example” of a Christian wife, etc. When we went to church the first Sunday after the crisis, I was with two of my close woman friends, and they asked me what was going on, and I told them what had happened, feeling the need for support and help.” – Taylor’s Story

“We were told that there were not other incidents and that our child had been completely unaware. We were encouraged with scripture that no Christian should bring his brother to court but rather the church should mediate” – Noel’s Story

To summarize from there, we see the pastors trying to mediate both the victims forgiveness of the perpetrator and the perpetrators repentance. The idea was that only those things were necessary and the whole matter would be resolved. Of course that’s not enough, sex offender registries exist for a reason and should be used. Jail time certainly couldn’t hurt either because civil justice is a thing. There are three uses of the law in scripture, not just one.

The mother in Noel’s story in particular was under the belief that her church had to mediate this allegation and that the police and professional psychological help weren’t really an option. Joshua Harris seems to have the same concerns with these teachings now.

Sandi Villarreal, Sojourners: What was the initial turning point that led to some of the questions you had about the tenets of the book?

Joshua Harris: I think some of the earliest moments for me happened about six to seven years ago when I was still a pastor and I began to see ways in which the culture of our church was unhealthy. … It was a time in which I think our pastoral team was just starting to recognize a lot of legalism and really unhealthy patterns. And we invited into our home different groups of members of the church and asked them to share some of their stories, and that was the first time that I started having that thought, [that] my book ties into this sense of pressure that there’s one way to do relationships.

… And then we left our denomination and right at that time, our church and the movement was hit with a lawsuit related to sex abuse and it was just total chaos. I was in crisis mode for about five years — which, I think it was all tied together, even the issues of how sex abuse was reported with regards to pastors feeling like they had all the answers and that they could handle things when really we didn’t know what we were doing….

….I think there were also theological problems related to our view of the role of pastors and our view of the role of the faith and ways that were, in our case, unique to our movement: the low view of psychiatry or therapists and those types of things, and the idea that pastors should be able to help you with any kind of life issue that you’re facing.

When it comes to something like sex abuse, we just did not have the training. We needed to be calling in other people, we needed to be, obviously, making sure that — and we did report many cases of sexual abuse, but in some cases obviously we made huge mistakes.” – Sojourners Interview

He goes on to blame other teachings from when he was a pastor in the interview. He blames the patriarchy, complementarianism, and a lack of female leadership in his church. I would want to know what he means in saying that before digging in as his definitions and mine probably differ as greatly as our understanding of church government does. That said, I don’t think his conclusions were the root cause, I think it was the methodology. I do however respect that he admits he was wrong and is doing something to to acknowledge peoples pain and work through it.

To answer the original question I started this blog post with, I do think that a fundamentalist approach to scripture can compel a leader to cover up sex abuse. For whatever reason, the sovereign grace ministry leaders seem to have consistently taught an interpretation of 1 Cor 6 that abrogates any reasonable application of Romans 13.

That is an exercise of the fundamentalist methodology I defined in this post and I think it is the root cause of the mismanagement and cover up conspiracy. You take that out and none of these stories work out the way they read. Instead you would have seen parents going to the police much sooner and a percentage of the pain the victims and families endured would be severely mitigated. The pastors would be handling the absolution or binding end of things privately, and the legal end of things would be entirely separate. The only thing church government would have to get involved in is ensuring safety for the victim on Sunday mornings.

Would not have prevented the sex abuse from happening in the first place, but I think the root causes there go much deeper and we need Jesus to return to ultimately eliminate that.

Final Thoughts

There are actual consequences for poorly dividing the Word of God. Doing so leads to very harmful interpretations than ruin lives. I know that it’s popular in evangelicalism to overlook our differences and write things off when they don’t appear to be a “salvation issue” at first glance.

The reason I think this is the case is we want to be kind and agreeable, especially to other people that we consider to be Christian. The thing is, kindness and agreement are not mutually exclusive. You can kindly disagree with people, it’s not that hard. Sometimes the kindest thing one can do is disagree. If the false teachings in this community on church government had been called out a long time before the lawsuits how much pain could have been spared? Pain that may even be the weed patch that ultimately drove Joshua Harris into leaving word and sacrament and subsequently confessing unbelief.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg too, take a look at their understanding of the role of small groups and pastors in individual sanctification, it puts the treadmill of the Roman Catholic sacramental system to shame. Luther would have had a field day with these folks. That will be my next blog post on this.

Posted in Armchair Lounge, Heresy & Heterodoxy, Joshua Harris, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Thoughts on Purity Culture and ‘Kissing Dating Goodbye’

 

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This is my second post in a series on analyzing Joshua Harris recent announcement to kiss Christianity goodbye.  You can find my first one HERE.  My style with this blog is to define the Biblical theses I’m going to interact with before using them at the analytical level.  I think I’ve mostly covered the bases on what I’m going to discuss here so this post is all analysis.

The past posts that I believe justify the Biblical claims I will be making for this post can be found in those below:

Biblical Gender Roles

Is Fornication a Sin?

Is Homosexuality a sin?

Original Sin: The Curse on Men and Women

I’m realizing now that I’ve never actually dedicated a blog post to specifically defining marriage.  However I did present all or part of it Biblically in those above posts and I think there is enough Biblical content there to justify the claims I will be building upon in this post.

The question I will be seeking to answer with this post before the end of it is the following:

Is it a sin to date someone before you marry them?

To get there though I want to define purity culture to a certain extent.  It’s a broad topic and I can’t objectively represent the whole of it properly because it’s spans many evangelical traditions.  I can represent my personal interactions with it though and if those resonate with you then there we go.

The book that Joshua Harris is most famous for is titled I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  It’s highly likely that you heard of it, particularly if you grew up in american christian circles anywhere between 1997 and 2005.  I was 13 years old in 1997 so by the time I was in high school I was very familiar with the book and the courtship philosophy that the writer advocates.

The first person to introduce the book to me was my aunt.  She had just read it herself and was explaining all of the details to me shortly after it was published.  I remember being skeptical of it then.  I also remember a few years later my dentist was giving me a hard time for mentioning my girlfriend I was dating at the time in high school.  She told me in between adjusting my teeth that every time you date someone you give a piece of your heart away and it increases the likelihood that you will get a divorce.

Fortunately for me my parents didn’t agree with the book at all and didn’t push it on their kids.  They didn’t believe dating was a sin.  They just taught that you have to be abstinent until marriage.  The problem though was that the families of most of the Christian girls I tried to date were employing some form of the courtship rules advocated in that book.  It was a real pain too because the rules varied widely from one family to another and they all claimed their version of these rules were straight out of the Bible.  I was supposed to be the hyper legalistic SDA navigating this maze too which is kind of ironic.

Courtship vs. Dating

Courtship isn’t a sin.  I think its a very good way to find a wife.  If I grew up in a small European village 200 years ago that’s exactly the way I would have found a wife.  I wouldn’t have dated her first, romance wouldn’t have been the focus anyways because that wasn’t a cultural highlight at the time.  Her family would be concerned about my faith, work ethic, trade, and ability to protect and provide for their daughter. We would have grown up knowing each other anyways so not much point in dating, and since you would know everyone in your community there’s no need for a social mechanism to facilitate meeting in the first place.

After getting married I would have had to be a good husband and in time love would happen or not.  Either way we would have had kids and raised them.  You can’t really divorce in that context mostly because privation would be the norm of your life and you would need each other to survive.  No time to gripe about things that don’t imminently lead to death in that context.

Courtship is certainly in the Bible.  The example that stands out for me is when Abraham sent his servant to the city to find a wife for his son sight unseen.  Nowhere in this story is a command for all of us to do likewise though.  Descriptive narrative (story) isn’t the same thing and Prescriptive narrative (law).  We shouldn’t read Biblical culture as equivalent to Biblical law.   If you are going to read the stories in scripture as law then you should do so consistently and at one point or another let poisonous snakes bite you like that church on TV.

Dr Jordan Cooper argues that dating evolved out of western romance culture in the 19th century and over time became what it is today.  That sounds like a fair analysis to me.  The relevant thing is that in our culture dating is the standard way of seeking a spouse.  It provides a social platform for selecting a mate and since the details of the structure can be modified beliefs can be incorporated and expectations removed as necessary. Is it ideal? Is it the best way?  Is it always consistent with scripture?

No

Secular Dating is problematic for many reasons.  First and foremost is that the secular dating process presumes premarital sex with many partners as a rite of passage to sow your oats and take time to get your career established.  After that cohabitation for a few years is advised before getting married for the tax break in your thirties.  Lastly, you’re expected to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter instead of having kids.  So no, that process is not biblical at all.

For biblical dating to work as a Christian norm we should be more understanding for couples who want to marry earlier than 35, or who may even forgo college immediately after high school and instead seek a cheaper and faster form of job training.  Young couples also shouldn’t expect to catch up to their parents standard of living right after they get married either.

Neither courtship or dating is a sin.  Scripture doesn’t give us law for choosing a spouse.  Scripture defines marriage as between a man and a woman, commands that we abstain from sex until married, and that marriage is for having kids.  How we find a mate is in the category of Christian freedom.  The term reformers would have used would be adiaphora, things neither commanded nor forbidden.

That being the case though, I think applying biblical principals to dating is alot more expedient than inventing a new form of courtship.  With instituting courtship we burden kids with alot of unnecessary and inconsistent rules that nobody will ever agree on.  Modifying secular dating with Christian principals doesn’t add new steps or inconsistent obstacles, it just trims away a few secular expectations and traditions.

So to answer my question from the outset, dating is not a categorical sin.  But lets be honest, at the end of the day purity culture wasn’t really concerned with sin that much was it?  Sure they would touch on it, but at the end of the day purity culture was always a sexual precursor to the prosperity gospel heresy.  The difference is it was about sex instead of money.

The Prosperity Gospel of Purity Culture

I’m not going to bother to quote anyone on this.  If you were in the same circles as I was in the early 2000’s you saw all the evangelical books on biblical rules for family life.  Ten easy steps to follow and you will never get a divorce.  Follow these five biblical principals and your kids won’t do drugs.  Follow the Daniel diet and you wont get sick.  Follow David’s example and you will never commit adultery….

Okay that last one was a joke…

The point is there is no promise in scripture that God is required to bless you in a particular manner if you follow a particular law.  It doesn’t matter if that law is Biblical or not.  Even if you follow every rule perfectly, and nobody does, your marriage may end in divorce.  Your kids might do drugs.  You may even die of cancer no matter what you ate.  You could even end up hanging upside down on a cross like the Apostle Peter did.

The natural state of man is privation, suffering, and death.  Anything better than that is a blessing.  The law kills, the answer isn’t more law the answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and even that is the answer in the sense that when you die you go to heaven instead of hell.  In the meantime there is no easy button.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do was follow a few rules and then ZAP! Your life is perfect!  That’s simply not the case though, and treating scripture like that is the sin of witchcraft.

Final Thoughts on Biblical Purity

Scripture does tell men and women to wait until marriage for sex.  Not for the purpose of improving your life or scoring purity points to cash in later.  The reason we are supposed to do that is because Jesus commands us to.  Jesus bled and died for us and we are called to follow his law.

Additionally, just because you may have failed to keep that law doesn’t mean you’re gonna get a divorce someday.  Jesus bled and died for that sin.  Go and sin no more, not because of what you will receive but out of a grateful heart for what God has done for you.

What Joshua Harris taught wasn’t just heavy on the law, it was a false law and a false gospel.  The laws he taught were wrong and the promises that he taught came with them are empty at best and witchcraft at worst.  The cost to himself was great and the cost to those who followed him were also burdensome.  Being wrong about scripture isn’t always just a difference of opinion.  There are painful real life consequences for false teaching, even on things that most would not consider to be “salvation issues”.  More on that in posts to come.

Posted in Armchair Lounge, Heresy & Heterodoxy, Joshua Harris | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What is Apostasy? Can you lose your salvation?

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I am going to blog on the topic of apostasy for a minute, the reason is I have some comments I want to make on the recent news about Joshua Harris and his falling away.  I have written on this topic in the past but not at the depth that is necessary for the reader to understand the things I want to say.  If you want to look at my older posts you can find them below:

Perseverance of the Saints

Hardening of the Heart

Crux Theologorum

There are a number of verses that teach a believer can fall away from belief in Christ. For this section of the blog post I am going to defend from a few selected passages the following thesis.

A penitent believer in Christ can fall away and in so doing lose the saving faith they had been given

‘For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. ‘ 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 ESV

 

The above verse isn’t a typical passage that I would recommend be used to defend my thesis.  The reason I selected it is I want to start out arguing from a weaker position to make my point on how seriously I believe scripture should be taken.  If Paul believed that a Christian could not fall away wouldn’t you agree this is a strange choice of words for him to use?

Eve was spiritually good all the way around and did indeed fall to the point of breaking the universe, and the deception he is warning Christians of falling to is away from a pure devotion to Christ and to stray in like manner of Eve’s fall.

If Paul was intending to teach once saved always saved (OSAS) or perseverance of the saints (PS) then he could have certainly chosen his words more carefully.

 

‘if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. ‘ Colossians 1:23 ESV

‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— ‘ Galatians 1:6 ESV

‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, ‘ 1 Timothy 4:1 ESV

 

I think the above passages are more clear, to shift these to be talking about false converts falling out of the faith in a corporate sense only removes the teeth from Paul’s warnings.  If he is merely talking about someone falling away from being fallen these passages are a waste of ink on what would have been very valuable paper.

Also it’s simply incompatible with the text itself to remove the two categories we see Paul working with.  In Colossians a shift is spoken of from one category to another.  In Galatians one is deserting someone they were with.  In Timothy one is departing from a faith they were a part of.  To twist these passages into different modes of a single category is antithetical to the authors choice of words.  Stated another way, why would an author use two category teachings to convey a one category idea?

 

‘For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. ‘ Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV

 

The above passage is the easiest one for me to use.  In one of my earlier posts making this case I think this is the only passage I bothered to use simply because it is so clear.  As I recall, I wanted to silently make the point that one should take scripture seriously enough for one passage of this clarity level to be sufficient.

That said, this passage is most useful with reformed because they can’t category shift on it.  Reformed thinkers very consistently place repentance in the category of being regenerate.  Some believe that you have to repent before God regenerates you.  But even those would believe that you are regenerate after repentance.  So the notion of being restored to repentance would force the idea that you did repent at one point and were regenerate.

Which is why in my conversations those who subscribe to reformed theology and take the text as its written insist that the writer is speaking in a form of irony and doesn’t actually mean what he is saying in a literal sense. Like a verbose idiosyncratic statement meant to teach another idea.

My response to that is that I don’t see any other idea coming out of the text.  If that’s the case the writer of Hebrews must be using a falsehood to teach nothing and for some reason chooses to comfort his audience on an idea he doesn’t believe to be true.

‘For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. ‘ Hebrews 6:7-12 ESV

Instead we get the writer of Hebrews assuring his audience that he doesn’t believe they are falling away.  He doesn’t say its because he was speaking in irony, he instead assures them with the evidences he has seen of their faith.  He see’s a faith that is bearing the fruit of good works and encourages them to keep it up.

Why would he feel the need to comfort his audience after warning them about apostasy if apostasy from a point of saving faith and repentance isn’t possible?

The plainest answer is that scripture does indeed teach a Christian can fall away from the faith.  There is no need to bend these passages around, just accept them and concede you don’t understand if that’s what you have to do.

The problem with Fundamentalism

The root cause of error here is really fundamentalism.  In my observation and personal experience a fundamentalist approach to scripture is one where the passages that the individual reader finds to be more expedient (for whatever reason) are weighed or even pitted against other clear passages with magisterial reason rather than harmonized with ministerial reason.

Some fundamentalists will point out that many passages do teach eternal security, therefore those teaching something that appears contrary to their understanding of eternal security must be bent a bit.

Whereas another group of fundamentalists will read the passages on apostasy and marshal them over and against those teaching eternal security.

The problem here is that ultimately this approach isn’t objectively falsifiable.  It’s an approach that places the reader in charge of what the scriptures are teaching.  This is why I don’t recognize fundamentalism as conservative.  I see it as being just as liberal as the approach used by ELCA types who tell me the Bible only contains the word of God.

Fundamentalists usually do lean more conservative, particularly on the readings they select over others.  This is because at the end of the day they are still limited to what’s actually in scripture were as liberals are only limited by their whims and imaginations.  In my analysis, the cash difference between the two historically is that fundamentalism takes a few generations longer to bear the fruit of mass apostasy than liberalism does.

How are eternal security and the reality of apostasy both true at the same time?

With a sacramental understanding of Justification by faith alone this is actually quite easy.  One is eternally secure in word and sacrament.  Outside of word and sacrament your faith should be expected to fall away as described in the Matt 13 parable of the sower.

That said, ministerial uses of reason shouldn’t even be necessary!

If you’re not willing to go there then simply say you believe both are true by faith and concede you don’t understand.  Do not bend the scripture with reason, when you do that you are adding to the scripture in the same severity that the Pope does, the only difference is that the tradition you’re doing it with is newer.

Final Thoughts

Regarding Joshua Harris I will be approaching this topic in a way that categorically allows for him to have been a believer and brother in Christ before he fell.  I will not assume he was only a false convert.  That said, I wouldn’t exclude that category either as I don’t know his heart.  So if you want to keep reading and just disagree with me there then that’s fine.  I won’t be pulling any punches though.

Posted in Armchair Lounge, Law, Nature of Man | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?

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Every Easter I have to brace myself for the onslaught of ridiculous meme’s and factually baseless blog articles claiming that Christianity stole Easter from the Pagans.

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A friend of mine contributed a post for my blog on this topic a few years ago which you can find HERE.  With this post I am going to aim for a more detailed analysis on a more narrow approach than he did.  There is evidence and good arguments out there with original sources for defending the Christian origins of the Bunnies and Eggs which you can find HERE.  With this post though I’m focusing on the origins of the holiday itself.    To do that I intend to ask and answer the following questions and go from there.

 

Did the early Christians believe the holy week to have occurred over the Passover?

Did the Early Christians desire to celebrate the resurrection?

Did first century Jews observe the Passover on or around the spring equinox?

 

To address the first two questions I am going to quote some church fathers. What I found was that they didn’t use the word Easter. The word Easter is the English word for Pascha which has its roots in Passover. Kinda boring to find the answer in the word itself but lets continue anyways for science.

I found the below quotes from David W. Bercot’s A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. I selected the quotes below because you can see an evolving dialogue on the dispute in the early church regarding what day Pascha [Easter] should be observed. In this book the word Easter is used to prevent confusion on the part of the reader but it should be known that this is an anachronism, the writers would have used the term “Pascha”.

The thing they seem to dispute the most is whether or not the Church should observe Nisan 14 every year, the Sunday following Nisan 14 to keep the holy week cycle, or if each church should do as they were taught and just be at peace about it.

“When Servilius Paulus was procounsul of Asia, at the time that Sagaris suffered martyrdom, there arose a great controversy at Laodicea concerning the date of Easter [Pascha] , which had fallen due at that time.” Melito, 170 AD Pg 223

“When the blessed Polycarp was visiting in Rome in the time of Anicetus [c. 155 A.D.], . . . they were at once well inclined towards each other, not willing that any quarrel should arise between them upon this matter [the observance of Easter]. For Anicetus could not persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [of his Easter customs] inasmuch as these things had been always observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant. Nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [Easter in his way], for Anicetus maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other.” Irenaeus, c. 180, Pg 500 

“There are some diversities among the churches. Anyone may know this from the facts concerning the celebration of Easter [Pascha]. . . . He may see that here are some diversities among them. All things are not observed alike among the churches, such as are observed at Jerusalem. Similarly, in very many other provinces, many things are varied because of the places and names. Nevertheless, there is no departure at all from the peace and unity of the [universal] church on this account.” Firmilian, AD 256 Pg 500

“As for us, then, we scrupulously observe the exact day, neither adding nor taking away. For in Asia great luminaries have gone to their rest, who will rise again on the day of the coming of the Lord. . . . These all kept Easter [Pascha] on the fourteenth day, in accordance with the Gospel. . . . Seven of my relatives were bishops, and I am the eighth, and my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven.” Polycrates AD 190 Pg 500

“You have sent to me, most faithful and accomplished son, in order to inquire what is the proper hour for bringing the fast to a close on the day of Easter [Pascha].  You say that there are some of the brethren who hold that it should be done at cockcrow.  However, others say that it should end at nightfall…. It will be cordially acknowledge by all that those who have been humbling their souls with fasting should immediately begin their festal joy and gladness at the same hour as the resurrection…. However, no precise account seems to be offered in [Scripture] as to the hour at which he rose.” – Dionysius of Alexandria 262 AD Pg 223

“We make the following statement and explanation to those who seek an exact account of the specific hour, half-hour, or quarter of an hour at which it is proper to begin their rejoicing over our Lord’s rising from the dead: Those who are too hasty and give up even before midnight, we reprove as irresponsible and intemperate.”  – Dionysius of Alexandra 262 AD Pg 223

“Our predecessors, men most learned in the books of the Hebrews and Greeks (I refer to Isidore, Jerome, and Clement) . . . come harmoniously to one and the same most exact determining of Easter [Pascha] —the day, month, and season meeting in accord with the highest honor for the Lord’s resurrection. But Origen also, the most learned of all, and the most discerning in making calculations, . . . has published in a very elegant manner a little book on Easter [Pascha]. . . . For this reason, also, we maintain that those who . . . determine the fourteenth day of the Paschal season by it make no trivial or common blunder. . . . Therefore, in this concurrence of the sun and moon, the Paschal festival is not to be celebrated. For as long as the [sun and moon] are found in this course, the power of darkness is not overcome. And as long as equality between light and darkness endures, and is not diminished by the light, it is shown that the Paschal festival is not to be celebrated. Accordingly, it is directed that the festival be kept after the equinox.” Anatolius AD 270 Pg 500 

“It is your duty, brethren . . . to observe the days of Easter [Pascha] exactly. . . . No longer be concerned about keeping the feast with the Jews, for we now have no communion with them. In fact, they have been led astray in regard to the calculation itself. . . . You should not, through ignorance, celebrate Easter [Pascha] twice in the same year, or celebrate this day of the resurrection of our Lord on any day other than a Sunday.” Apostolic Constitutions, AD 390 Pg 223

 

There was obviously dispute on the date they all felt Easter should be observed. However, I don’t see any plot detailing how they seek to rob a pagan religion of their Ishtar day or anything like that (by the way ishtar only rhymes with easter in english!). Clearly they all believed that the biblical narrative happened on Nisan 14 and they wanted the Christian tradition to be in keeping with that history however the details worked out.

I think that satisfies the first two questions. We have evidence that the Early Christians observed Easter in one form or another. We also see that they were quite passionate about doing it right. So I don’t think there is any basis to say they got it from Pagans. Why the association with the Equinox though?

The first month of the Jewish Lunar calendar happens to be in the spring. Though the specific means have changed over time, a lot of care has been given to ensure that it remains in the spring by adding leap years to the Jewish Calendar. When Leviticus was written the name of the month was different, but today it is called the month of Nisan.

 

“These are the appointed feasts of the Lord , the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord ‘s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord ; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.” ‘ Leviticus 23:4-8 ESV

The only reason then that Passover happens around the equinox in my estimation is because Nisan does. When did Nisan 14 land when Jesus would have been crucified? We don’t know for sure which year he was crucified. According to tradition it was 33 AD, but there are other historic possibilities.

This article gives details on making the best guess that we can though. There is a give and take of a few days on each as the determination of the beginning of a new month at the time was visibility of the moon. Such a thing is highly subjective as we don’t know today which nights were cloudy and which were not in the first century.

Nissan 14

Image Source

Jesus crucifixion would have been in March or April. Also, since it’s impossible to nail it down to the precise date then that means arguing over exactly which one of these we should observe it on is a waste of time. We don’t know. The point is though that Easter is a christian tradition not a pagan one. The date for the Passover is rooted in scripture, which means the date for the resurrection is too. The source of the tradition itself is completely biblical in it’s origins.

Okay but why the Equinox?

The truth is this isn’t a question one has to answer. There are many reasons one may establish a holiday based on the equinox that do not require appropriating pagan traditions. For example, they didn’t have digital calendars back then and people wanted to share the same dates for things. I can see how using the equinox or the solstice as a starting point for framing a calculation on a holiday would be pretty handy.

Even if that isn’t the reason though you don’t need one to object to the pagan origins assertion. Just because two things are similar doesn’t mean one was caused by the other. If someone is throwing this at you then you should actually just point out the underlying flaw in their logic. You don’t need to even go any further than that.

Origin of the Modern Dates

I found a good article on this which you can read yourself HERE. The two paragraphs most pertinent though are quoted below for your convenience.

“Easter is the day members of the Christian faith recognize the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is a celebration of life and new beginnings. In 325 AD the church held the First Ecumenical Council known as the Council of Nicea. Prior to the council meeting, churches around the world celebrated Easter at various times. In order to bring unity among the churches, council members created a formula that would calculate the date for Easter celebration around the world. They established Easter to be held on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon, which follows the vernal equinox, but always after Jewish Passover. To avoid any confusion in the date, it was also determined that the vernal equinox would fall on March 21. This system would guarantee that all churches would celebrate Easter together on the same day.”……

“Although the churches were split among several doctrinal views, they both still believed Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon to follow the vernal equinox. The Catholic Church, however, no longer found that it had to fall after Passover. Added to this was the Catholic Church’s switch over from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, which was presented in 1582. The Orthodox Church still held to the original Nicean Council’s formula for Easter as well as following the original calendar system of the Julian calendar. By using two different calendar systems, the vernal equinox now fell on March 21 under the Gregorian calendar and April 3 on the Julian calendar. The two churches now celebrated the same Easter holiday on two different days.”

Conclusion

It’s perfectly rational to assert from history that Easter is thoroughly Christian in it’s origins. Whether you observe on the Western date or the Eastern one is just as valid as it would seem that arguing about the date is part of our heritage too. What you don’t have to deal with is those silly meme’s telling you it’s a pagan day. Please feel free to drop a link to this blog post in any of those that you see.

Posted in Armchair Lounge, Heresy & Heterodoxy | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Do not call unclean what God has called clean…

 

 

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One of the things Roman Catholics will accuse protestants of is believing in what they call a legal fiction.

My understanding is they believe that God makes you perfect in this life to earn salvation by means of the grace of God. Nevertheless, anyone who enters heaven upon death has reached perfection.  All else go to purgatory to finish that process up or to hell if they died without confessing a mortal sin to a priest.  A more Vatican II friendly Catholic might add some extra nuances to that but the general idea in it’s orthodoxy is the same.

Scripture paints a very different picture in Roman’s 3. Paul says our justification is very much apart from the law.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; ROMANS 3:21‭-‬24 NASB

The reason I selected this one in particular is Rome will compartmentalize a protestant understanding of justification by faith as applying ONLY to their understanding of baptism. After receiving baptism if you commit a mortal sin you have to confess and do penance as you are molded to perfection.  It’s important to understand that they don’t actually ignore passages like the one I quoted, some protestants will set you up for looking silly by not making that clear.

Notice though, Paul isn’t even bringing up Baptism in his argument at all. Paul is roping in all those who believe, which would include those who have already been baptized, and all of which would have very likely sinned since.  Paul is certainly not limiting justification by faith apart from the works of the law to baptism in this passage. If he was he would have said so.

Reading another passage recently though it was fun to unwind an old Adventist thought and find the gospel tucked away in it that relates to my setup.  So I’d like to share.

As an Adventist I was taught to follow the food laws.

You can’t eat pork, it’s a sin.

Leviticus 11 says so.

Why did God forbid eating pork to the Jews? I believe it was as a type and shadow of law and gospel and Jesus victory over sin and death given to us in a physical way that we can see, touch, feel, and relate to.  It’s given in such a way that I think only a first century Jew or former member of a modern judiazing cult can understand. In my opinion it also gives us a clearer understanding of justification by faith that helps bust the legal fiction myth.

Notice Peter objects to eating pork because it’s unclean….

A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
ACTS 10:13‭-‬15 NASB

As an SDA I would have told you this dream was ONLY symbolic of preaching to gentiles who were considered dogs.  An “only” is hard to argue from scripture to a thinking person.  Many texts can have multiple meanings and good hermeneutics necessitate roping alot of ideas together in a systematic theology.  Very rarely do you have a legit “only” in any given Biblical text. And needing an only so that your SDA theology is more expedient isn’t a good reason.

This text certainly includes both preaching to gentiles and unclean meats being clean.  To Peter at that moment it was considered a sin to eat pork.  But God is telling him it’s now clean. Here’s my point though, nothing obvious to Peter has changed about the pig.  If it was a sin to eat before why isn’t it now?

Is this cleanliness merely a legal fiction?

I argue that the purpose of unclean meats was type and shadow of Justification by faith made in a way we can understand. When Jesus paid the price for sin he has taken old covenant laws and declared them obsolete. What was unclean is now clean. In his death on the cross he has taken us and declared us clean in his blood.

Do we still struggle with our sinful nature in this life?

Yes Paul certainly did…

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. ROMANS 7:15 NASB

Do we change in sanctification in this life? Yes we do. But that process is no measure of justification for we have been made clean.  And by calling Pauls very clear teaching of Justification by faith a legal fiction, Rome indeed calls that unclean which God has made clean.

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Objective Justification

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Not all Lutherans agree on the doctrine of Objective Justification. A notable dissenting synod would be the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDONA). The discerning reader should look at their arguments too.

Simply stated in my own words, the doctrine teaches that Jesus died for everyone and paid for the sins of everyone, even for the people who will be in hell for all eternity.  Below is the wording put out by the LCMS.

“By “objective” or “universal” justification one means that God has declared the whole world to be righteous for Christ’s sake and that righteousness has thus been procured for all people. It is objective because this was God’s unilateral act prior to and in no way dependent upon man’s response to it, and universal because all human beings are embraced by this verdict. God has acquired the forgiveness of sins for all people by declaring that the world for Christ’s sake has been forgiven. The acquiring of forgiveness is the pronouncement of forgiveness.” – CTCR Report Study Theses on Justification #23

 

I’ve assembled some rather standard proof texts for this. These are not all of the passages used in the CTCR but rather are the ones that I found convincing.  Below you will see that passages that I understand as clearly including either everyone in a broad sense or unbelievers in a narrow one.

 

“‘My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2 ESV

“3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Tim 2:3-6 ESV

‘Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. ‘ Rom 5:18 ESV

“He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Heb 7:27 ESV

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 ESV

 

Some I’ve read will try to take the passages teaching gratia universalis and argue that they are speaking to all of a narrow category.  So all of some if that helps.  The reason I chose those listed above is because they juxtapose two groups against each other as I think this approach steps around those arguments.  The easiest one being 1 John 2:1-2 which I will post again:

 

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2 ESV

 

The apostle John was certainly a believer, so when he says Jesus is the propitiation for “our” sins he would most logically be meaning himself and the other believers he is writing to.  Then when he wraps in the sins of the whole world in opposition to “our” the plainest rendering is that he is juxtaposing non-believers against believers.  For him to be juxtaposing believers against believers would be repetitive at best.

sins

I would use similar argumentation for the other passages presented.  In context and at their plainest meaning Christ died for all.  To me, to read passages like this another way smacks of the hand stands and back flips I remember SDA doing on passages like Col 2:16.

Here is the problem some like to present though, if Christ died for all does it not also follow that nobody is going to hell?  Does this mean you have to be a universalist?  Read this passage one more time, I’ve highlighted a different section in verse 6.

“3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Tim 2:3-6 ESV

Notice above that God desires all to be saved and has given himself as a ransom for all.  It would not be logical to assume that Paul was flipping categories in this one line of thought.  The same all in verse 4 is the same all in verse 6. However we see in other passages that some people do go to hell.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ….’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46 ESV

 

The debt has been paid for all, no blood was spared on the cross. The manner in which we receive this gift is where I would draw the distinction, not in who it was shed for. Man receives faith as a gift via means of grace.

Regarding means of grace, below are a few posts I have written that I believe lay out that claim Biblically, I don’t want to re-do the work here. Be advised that each of these rely on posts that precede them so if these are all new concepts for you then be prepared for a long study that took me years to work out.

 

Faith

Grace

Justification

 

Final Thoughts

 

I agree with Objective Justification because I think it’s the plainest way of understanding all of these texts. God has paid the price for everyone. A full pardon exists for everyone even though God knew full and well before he created anyone who will receive it and who would not. We receive that pardon by grace through means.

Why?  I don’t care I just want to believe what’s true….

What does this change?  This isn’t just a thought doctrine, it changes the kinds of words you’re comfortable using or not comfortable with.  For example, I would have no problem saying “Christ died for everyone” or that he “paid it all”.  I would not agree with the notion that he only died for the elect.  I simply distinguish between sin being paid for and forgiveness being received.  All sin was paid for on the cross, and forgiveness is received in word and sacrament.

 

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Original Sin: The Curse on Men and Women

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In this post I want to discuss the curse placed on men and women at the fall.  For an older post only on Original Sin please click HERE.

Throughout history there is a broad distinction between men and women as it pertains to production and distribution.  I think there is a tie in to scripture on this and I want to explore that idea.  Also I want to address the false approach that many take with regards to the curse.  It’s not primarily a law we fulfill so much as it is a burden placed upon us.

To get started, I’d like to point out that the curse of the fall spreads out to all humanity.  It wasn’t something that God just placed on Adam and Eve.  Simply stated, if your flesh can die then you are impacted by the curse.

‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned- for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. ‘ Romans 5:12-14 NASB

The Curse on Man

‘Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19 NASB

 

The mistake that I think gets made by many is to read the curse in Genesis 3 as prescriptive rather than descriptive.  The curse isn’t something you have to follow for it to be true.  It’s a curse that’s placed upon you.  In this case, the curse on man is we have to work to survive.

If you don’t do that you will die.  Not only this, but the planet itself that presumably once was designed to work for you is now working against you.  Nature itself has been refashioned into a weapon that works against your own survival and those you provide for.  Although there are implications for everyone else, God certainly intended man to bear this curse as evidence by the laws given for men to follow.  For an exposition on that I recommend my post titled “Gender Roles“.  By design, curse, and rule the intent was for man to bear production.

The way I see it, even with a first world context after the cross this curse is still as much a reality as it ever was.  By his grace God has permitted means by which we can mitigate some of this curse, but such things only prove the existence of the curse by their necessity.  By nature of the fact that we even wish to mitigate it means we concede to its existence and burden.

Should a man be lazy and not provide for his family ultimately the curse works against him in his own bloodline.  If your family doesn’t thrive the results are self evident, in the most extreme case you end up being the last leaf or close to it on your family tree.  Family is the only thing you take with you to heaven so the results of such sins are eternal even if you don’t go to hell.

The Curse on Woman

‘To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”‘ Genesis 3:16 NASB

This is the one that gets quoted by feminists left, right, and center for why they don’t agree with the Bible.  According to this analysis I found online Patriarchy and Women’s Subordination: A Theoretical Analysis (Pages 3-6) it appears that feminists generally agree that patriarchy predates recorded human history.

“According to the radical feminists (Brownmiller 1976, Firestone 1974), patriarchy preceded private property. They believe that the original and basic contradiction is between the sexes and not between economic classes. Radical feminists consider all women to be a class. Unlike the traditionalists, however, they do not believe that patriarchy is natural or that it has always existed and will continue to do so.” – Pg 5

It goes without saying that if you believe something to be older than private property then you believe it is going to be very old indeed.  She likely considers this older than a Christian would the time of Abraham for example.

“According to Lerner (1989), patriarchy was not one event but a process developing over a period of almost 2500 years (from approximately 3100 BC to 600 BC) and a number of factors and forces that were responsible for the establishment of male supremacy as we see it today. Gerda Lerner (1989), begins by emphasizing the importance of women history in women’s struggle against patriarchy and for equality. According to her, patriarchy, in fact, preceded the formation of private property and class society.” – Pg 6

They tend to have a wide array of theories as to how “the patriarchy” came to be if you read the rest of the document.  The notion of such things going back to creation or coming from God would be antithetical to their beliefs so I wouldn’t expect them to actually go in that direction.  However, I would simply like to point out that Genesis 3:16 seems to offer an explanation consistent with their observations of a pre-historic patriarchy.

What do I mean by that?  I mean that God said man would rule over woman as a curse and that this reality has colored all of human history.  Such things have not been limited by time period or geography and any exceptions I’ve seen offered only prove the rule rather than contradicting it.

So by nature of the fact that secular feminists spill so much ink and energy fighting “the patriarchy? means that by their actions they concede that the curse is a reality even if they don’t internally agree on the mechanism.  How I see it, even if they succeed in mitigating that curse after the cross with the sword of government and first world conveniences all they would prove is that God’s grace has permitted a societal context where some effects of the curse can be at least temporarily mitigated.

If a woman flees from this curse, like man the punishment is received in her very bloodline.  Bearing children is a particular work of a woman’s calling.  A failure to procreate is a very definitive end to your line on this earth.  And that is a self evident curse on anyone whether or not they agree with it.  A good example of this would be the Shakers,  as of 2017 there are only two living at this time.  That at least is an effective case study on what happens when a group of people adhering to a tradition cease to breed.  Before too long they cease to exist.

 

Conclusion

 

Just wrapping up these ideas and putting the pieces together what strikes me is that those who carry their curse burden head on seem to evade the more permanent consequences.

What do I mean by that?  I mean that a man who produces and a woman who distributes is more likely to have a healthy family that passes down to the next generation.  They have plenty of plates around the table and lots of stockings over the fireplace at Christmas.  They have someone to care for them when they are old, remember them when they are gone, and to share memories with in heaven.  Those who flee the curse are cut off by nature in whole or in part.  I just find that to be a compelling and fearful idea.

Does this mean it is wrong for a woman to work and provide for her family too?  No I don’t think so.  Like I said at the outset, the curse should be read descriptively not prescriptively.  In these cases I just think that means she is choosing to bear both curses.  That would explain why many women who choose to do this are burdened with the stress of racing their biological clock as they establish their career.  These women have my sympathy and admiration in such cases, not my scorn.

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Clint Eastwood Reads Praise Song Lyrics: Lutheran Satire

This video is amazing, check it out when you get a chance.  You wont be disappointed.

 

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