Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Why Do Churches Ignore ‘The Christian Apologetics’ Ministry?


            Is there a Christian apologetics ministry in your church? If the answer is a resounding NO, then your church is not an exception. It’s merely a part of a gazillion churches (or maybe more!) that ignores the ministry of Christian apologetics.

            There is a definite need for churches to prepare the young minds to not only resist the assault but to know enough to not allow their faith in Christ to be shaken or destroyed, says Christian Apologist William Lane Craig:1

In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian worldview coupled with an overwhelming relativism. If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to teach our children simply Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. It’s hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.
Unfortunately, our churches have also largely dropped the ball in this area. It’s insufficient for youth groups and Sunday school classes to focus on entertainment and simpering devotional thoughts. We’ve got to train our kids for war. We dare not send them out to public high school and university armed with rubber swords and plastic armor. The time for playing games is past.

            Interestingly, WLC2 spoke those words of wisdom in the year 2012, according to The Poached Egg website. However, by now, the situation would not have changed to a great extent. The harsh reality remains intact; Churches continue to ignore the apologetics ministry.

            Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, Douglas Groothuis, thus expresses his thoughts on this subject:3

Many Christians are not aware of the tremendous intellectual resources available to defend "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints"; (Jude 3). This is largely because many major churches and parachurch organizations virtually ignore apologetics. One major campus ministry with a fine history and an otherwise splendid program offers no materials to help students deal with the unbelief emanating from their secular professors. Few evangelical sermons ever address the evidence for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, the justice of hell, the supremacy of Christ, or the logical problems with non-Christian worldviews. Christian bestsellers, with rare exceptions, indulge in groundless apocalyptic speculations, exalt Christian celebrities (whose characters often do not fit their notoriety), and revel in how-to methods. You can tell much about a movement by what it reads, and by what it does not read.

            Why do churches ignore the apologetics ministry?

            Christian apologetics website Carm.org provides an answer to this question:4 (Emphasis Mine)

This is a more complex question than it may seem at the outset…Apologetics is not taught in churches because ministers and other church leaders are either untrained in it, or they are philosophically opposed to it.  The question, then, is why apologetics as an intellectual pursuit has been long ignored by Christian higher education and by church leaders.  This requires that we deal with generalities about attitudes within the church and how they have developed through the history of American Christianity.
The church, of course, has been influenced by the overall academic and social environment.  J.P. Moreland has provided an excellent analysis of how intellectual pursuits such as apologetics have been forsaken by the church as a whole.1 I also recommend Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth.  I will attempt to summarize Moreland’s evaluation here.
The great revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries brought with them an emphasis on quick conversion of individuals to Christianity without sufficient attention to instruction in biblical doctrine.  The Christian life became more about the experience than the intellectual assent to the teachings of Christ and the apostles.  Without intellectual grounding, many Christians fell prey to the rising philosophical views alleging that only empirical evidence can support truth claims.  Higher criticism began to cast doubt on the inerrancy of the Scriptures.  Darwinism challenged Christian teachings on the origins of man.  The evangelical church largely responded to these challenges by abandoning rational inquiry altogether.  Philosophy, as a whole, became rejected by the fundamentalists, who stood by the truth of the Scripture.  Mainstream denominations, on the other hand, accepted modern philosophy and rejected the inerrancy of Scripture, viewing it as a spiritual guidebook only, not propositional truth.  Instead of engaging the secularists, the fundamentalists retreated to the margins of society.  As a result, the church has largely adopted a blind-faith position regarding the knowledge of spiritual truth.  Rather than faith being seen as a response to reasoned evidence of the truth of Christianity’s claims, it has become contrary to reason altogether.  It amounts to believing despite all the evidence.
Ultimately, the absence of apologetics in the church has to do with intellectual laziness, which is sometimes made a virtue in the name of “faith.”  The effects of anti-intellectualism in the church have been disastrous.  However, further discussion of these effects would go beyond the scope of the current question.  Again, I advise that you read Moreland’s work.  The good news is that in recent years, apologetics is on the rise.  Seminaries and other institutions of Christian higher education are beginning to teach apologetics and Christian worldview studies.  Authors like Charles Colson, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel have popularized apologetics.  Nevertheless, great work is yet to be done if the church is to become more of the salt and light it was designed to be (Matthew 5:13), after decades of retreating to the walls of the church buildings in the midst of the intellectual challenges of the secular world.    

            If churches do not have an apologetics ministry in their church because they do not have members who are into or interested in apologetics ministry, then the churches need not take all the blame upon themselves. Even so, there are quite a few parachurch apologetics ministries that these churches can request help from.

            Finally, this is not a tirade against churches. This is an appeal to the church leadership. May they prayerfully think about starting apologetics ministry in their churches, which is also the need of the hour.

Endnotes:

1https://www.thepoachedegg.net/2012/01/william-lane-craig-our-churches-have-dropped-the-ball.html

2William Lane Craig

3https://www.bethinking.org/apologetics/six-enemies-of-apologetic-engagement

4https://carm.org/apologetics-in-church

Websites last accessed on 31st July 2019.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Neuroscience & The Soul: Does Neuroscience Disprove The Soul? (Part 2)

            If neuroscience could disprove the existence of a disembodied soul, then its ramification includes disbelieving the existence of God because God is a disembodied mind. The assault against the soul, and thus God, from the vantage point of neuroscience, is increasing.

            In his blog entitled A Brief Reflection on Neuroscience and the Soul, J.P Moreland emphasizes the conflict between science and the soul or between physicalism1 and dualism, and further adds that science cannot arbitrate this conflict:2

The great Presbyterian scholar J. Gresham Machen once observed: “I think we ought to hold not only that man has a soul, but that it is important that he should know that he has a soul”…
From a Christian perspective, Machen offers a trustworthy saying.  Christianity is a dualist, interactionist religion in this sense:  God, angels/demons, and the souls of men and beasts are immaterial substances that can causally interact with the world.  Specifically, human persons are (or have) souls that are spiritual substances that ground personal identity in a disembodied intermediate state between death and final resurrection…Clearly, this was the Pharisees’ view in Intertestamental Judaism, and Jesus (Matthew 22:23-33; cf. Matthew 10:28) and Paul (Acts 23 6-10; cf. II Corinthians 12:1-4) side with the Pharisees on this issue over against the Sadducees …
In my view, Christian physicalism involves a politically correct revision of the biblical text that fails to be convincing …
Nevertheless, today, many hold that, while broadly logically possible, dualism is no longer plausible in light of advances in modern science.  This attitude is becoming increasingly prominent in Christian circles.  Thus, Christian philosopher Nancey Murphy claims that physicalism is not primarily a philosophical thesis, but the hard core of a scientific research program for which there is ample evidence.  This evidence consists in the fact that “biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science have provided accounts of the dependence on physical processes of specific faculties once attributed to the soul”…
Dualism cannot be proven false—a dualist can always appeal to correlations or functional relations between soul and brain/body--but advances in science make it a view with little justification.  According to Murphy, "science has provided a massive amount of evidence suggesting that we need not postulate the existence of an entity such as a soul or mind in order to explain life and consciousness"…
I cannot undertake here a critique of physicalism and a defense of dualism.  Suffice it to say that dualism is a widely accepted, vibrant intellectual position…I suspect that the majority of Christian philosophers are dualists.  Still, it is important to mention that, upon reflection, it becomes evident that neuroscience really has nothing to do with which view is most plausible.  Without getting into details, this becomes evident when we observe that leading neuroscientists—Nobel Prize winner John Eccles, U. C. L. A. neuroscientist Jeffrey Schwartz, and Mario Beaureguard, are all dualists and they know the neuroscience.  Their dualism--and the central intellectual issues involved in the debate- are quite independent of neuroscientific data.
The irrelevance of neuroscience also becomes evident when we consider the…best seller Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander.  Regardless of one’s view of the credibility of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) in general, or of Alexander’s in particular, one thing is clear.  Before whatever it was that happened to him (and I believe his NDE was real but no not agree with his interpretation of some of what happened to him), Alexander believed the (allegedly) standard neuroscientific view that specific regions of the brain generate and possess specific states of conscious.  But after his NDE, Alexander came to believe that it is the soul that possesses consciousness, not the brain, and the various mental states of the soul are in two-way causal interaction with specific regions of the brain.  Here’s the point:  His change in viewpoint was a change in metaphysics that did not require him to reject or alter a single neuroscientific fact.  Dualism and physicalism are empirically equivalent views consistent with all and only the same scientific data.  Thus, the authority of science cannot be appropriated to provide any grounds whatsoever for favoring one view over another.

            Dr. Michael Egnor is a neurosurgeon and a human brain expert. He contends that the soul exists and that neuroscience points to the existence of the soul. Here’s an excerpt from an article in Evolution News entitled Egnor: Why Neuroscience Points to a Soul:3

…Is the mind simply another word for the brain, an organ in the head that fools us into thinking that the self, the “inescapable I,” is a genuine entity? Dr. Egnor explains the materialist view in its several successive historical manifestations, and why, despite its pervasive influence, it hardly qualifies as a serious perspective. Egnor details the findings of his own field, neuroscience. These indicate that something extra, something immaterial, is joined with the material body to form the complete human being. That something extra is traditionally designated as the soul.
You are more than a physical creature alone. Egnor cites, among other pieces of evidence, a 2006 study in the journal Science reporting that patients in a persistent vegetative state, contrary to how their condition appears clinically, are not all absent as personalities. Even with a severely damaged, shrunken brain, the non-material person is somehow still there, and aware. For example, as functional magnetic resonance imaging shows, many such patients, just like healthy people, can distinguish the sound of meaningful sentences from syntactical gibberish. That should be impossible under materialist assumptions.
            This article also features a YouTube video entitled No, You're Not a Robot Made Out of Meat (Science Uprising 02). This video highlights four pieces of evidence from recent research that supports an immaterial mind.

Recent research supports the existence of an immaterial mind: That thought actually changes our brain.
First, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a world’s leading expert in neuroplasticity, treats people from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). His treatment provides evidence that thoughts change the physical brain. The choices we make changes how our brain works. This research clearly supports mind over matter.
The second evidence for an immaterial mind comes from an operation called Corpus Callosotomy. In this operation, if we cut the brain in half, the brain still seemed to be a unitary person. This implies that the human mind is not purely generated by the matter of the brain. Otherwise cutting the brain in half could result in two people. But it doesn’t.
The third evidence for an immaterial mind comes from brain stimulation experiments that seemed to show our intellect and identity are not found in our brain tissue. Neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield conducted numerous experiments wherein he found that there were aspects of the patient’s mind, which were not affected in spite of what he did to the brain. He could not change their consciousness, he could not change their intellect, and he could not change their sense of self, no matter what he did to the brain.
The fourth piece of evidence for an immaterial mind comes from experiments about freewill. Materialists try to convince us that freewill does not exist. Dr. Benjamin Libet’s experiments show that humans do have freewill; at least the freewill to say no.
            Here’s more information about Dr. Libet’s experiment. This excerpt is from Psychology Today, from an article entitled Free Won't: It May Be All That We Have (or Need):4

"Free won't"
In this case, Libet had participants in the same basic paradigm, but he instructed the participants that once you become aware of your urge to flex, then stop it. Don't flex your fingers or wrist. Libet believed that there was a window of about 150 ms in which the participant could do this (note that the whole 200 ms between conscious awareness and muscle movement is not available, because once the spinal nerves are activated, somewhere around 50 ms before the muscle movement, this can not be stopped). The results indicated that the cortical readiness potential did develop (even earlier than in the past experiments), but this brain activity flattened out just before the muscle action, which indicated the vetoing effects of conscious choice. Libet concluded that participants were using conscious choice to veto the muscle flex at the last moment.
We have free will to abort an action. So, we may better think of volitional action in this case not as free will, but as "free won't." We can stop an action initiated by our brain nonconsciously.
This capacity of "free won't" is generated by free choice. This is our conscious will at work.

            To conclude, this information should be adequate to understand that neuroscience cannot disprove the existence of a soul. On the one hand, Christians can reasonably argue that science does not possess any authority to make a decision on the existence of the soul. On the other hand, we can cite evidence from neuroscience that points to the existence of the soul.

Endnotes:

1Physicalism is the position that everything that exists does so within the limits of its physical properties and that there are no other kinds of things other than physical. (https://carm.org/what-physicalism)

2http://www.jpmoreland.com/2012/12/08/a-brief-reflection-on-neuroscience-and-the-soul/

3https://evolutionnews.org/2019/06/egnor-why-neuroscience-points-to-a-soul/

4https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dont-delay/201106/free-wont-it-may-be-all-we-have-or-need

Websites last accessed on 26th July 2019.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Neuroscience & The Soul: Why Should Christians Be Concerned About The Existence Of The Soul? (Part 1)


            We are souls with a body; not the other way around, says Christian apologist J.P Moreland in his YouTube interview about Neuroscience and the Soul.1

            If you are a thinking Christian, it is essential to understand the conflict between science and religion with respect to the existence of the soul and the findings of modern science.

            Why?

            If neuroscience proves that soul does not exist, then it’s quite possible that Historic Christianity would be on shaky ground. The assault on the existence of the soul is both from outside Christianity and from within.

            In the year 2009, cognitive neuroscientist Martha J. Farah and Nancey Murphy, a Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary published their letter entitled Neuroscience and the Soul in the journal Science (Vol. 323. no. 5918, p. 1168). The crux of their letter is to emphasize that neuroscience is slowly yet surely advancing in disputing the existence of the soul. Here’s their letter:2

Neuroscience and the Soul

Science and religion have had a long relationship, by turns collegial and adversarial. In the 17th century Galileo ran afoul of the Church's geocentrism, and in the 19th century Darwin challenged the biblical account of creation. The breaches that open at such times often close again, as religions determine that the doctrine in question is not an essential part of faith. This is precisely what happened with geocentrism and, outside of certain American fundamentalist Christian sects, evolution.
A new challenge to the science-religion relationship is currently at hand. We hope that, with careful consideration by scientists and theologians, it will not become the latest front in what some have called the "culture war" between science and religion. The challenge comes from neuroscience and concerns our understanding of human nature.
Most religions endorse the idea of a soul (or spirit) that is distinct from the physical body. Yet as neuroscience advances, it increasingly seems that all aspects of a person can be explained by the functioning of a material system. This first became clear in the realms of motor control and perception (1, 2). Yet, models of perceptual and motor capacities such as color vision and gait do not directly threaten the idea of the soul. You can still believe in what Gilbert Ryle called "the ghost in the machine" (3) and simply conclude that color vision and gait are features of the machine rather than the ghost.
However, as neuroscience begins to reveal the mechanisms underlying personality, love, morality, and spirituality, the idea of a ghost in the machine becomes strained. Brain imaging indicates that all of these traits have physical correlates in brain function. Furthermore, pharmacologic influences on these traits, as well as the effects of localized stimulation or damage, demonstrate that the brain processes in question are not mere correlates but are the physical bases of these central aspects of our personhood. If these aspects of the person are all features of the machine, why have a ghost at all?
By raising questions like this, it seems likely that neuroscience will pose a far more fundamental challenge than evolutionary biology to many religions. Predictably, then, some theologians and even neuroscientists are resisting the implications of modern cognitive and affective neuroscience. "Nonmaterialist neuroscience" has joined "intelligent design" as an alternative interpretation of scientific data (4). This work is counterproductive, however, in that it ignores what most scholars of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures now understand about biblical views of human nature. These views were physicalist, and body-soul dualism entered Christian thought around a century after Jesus' day (5, 6).
To be sure, dualism is intuitively compelling. Yet science often requires us to reject otherwise plausible beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary. A full understanding of why Earth orbits the Sun (as a consequence of the way the solar system was formed) took another century after Galileo's time to develop. It may take even longer to understand why certain material systems give rise to consciousness. In the meantime, just as Galileo's view of Earth in the heavens did not render our world any less precious or beautiful, neither does the physicalism of neuroscience detract from the value or meaning of human life.
            What is the classic Christian understanding of the soul?

            J.P Moreland offers a fundamental explanation: The Bible teaches that our soul leaves the body when we die and enters an intermediate state between death and final resurrection. During the final resurrection, we will receive a glorified body to be reembodied again.3 

            In the same video, he explains why Christians should be concerned about this topic:

            (1) Over the last two decades or so, some neuroscientists are striving to do away with the concept of the soul.

            (2) They argue that we are not anything more than our brain. They contend that our consciousness is generated by the brain and that consciousness resides in the brain.

            (3) But a classic Christian understanding would be that the consciousness resides in the soul and with a deep integration and causal connection with the brain.

            (4) Hence, Christians should be concerned about the soul’s existence so to be able to interpret the modern findings of neuroscience and integrate it with classic Christian doctrine and theology.

            The existence of the soul is significant to the credibility of the classic Christian understanding of the gospel and our belief in life after death. Moreover, if the soul exists, it would largely undermine the Darwinian concept of evolution because an atheist should explain how the human mind came into existence from matter, says Moreland:4

Neuroscience and the soul is very, very important to the Christian Church for two reasons. First of all, Gallup polls have indicated that there has been a steady loss of belief in life after death as there has been an increase in the belief that we’re our brains. The idea that many people have, and sensibly enough, is that if you’re a brain and your brain dies, that’s the end of you. If there is a soul, this means that there is more to us than our brains and it tends to lend support to the idea that there’s life after death.
The neuro-scientific findings, if they do, in fact, undermine belief in the soul, it has, for many people, undermined the belief in life after death and made the gospel sort of pointless. What is the point of the gospel if this life is all there is? The second reason that this is important is because it appears that the Bible teaches that there’s a soul and if we are to revise the Bible’s teachings in this area, under the pressure of neuroscience, what’s next? It’s important to ask the question has science undermined traditional Biblical teaching?
There is actually another reason why this matters to the average person. Darwin admitted, when he came up with his Theory of Evolution, that it could not explain the origin of mind. That what his theory could do was to explain the origin of animal bodies and brains, but it couldn’t explain the origin of mind. And so Darwin was a materialist and argued that his theory should be understood as promoting a materialist view of living things, that living things are strictly brains and central nervous systems.
If, on the other hand, there’s reason to think that consciousness and the soul aren’t physical, that provides reasons for thinking that there are limits to Darwinian explanation in that there is need for a god to create the soul and to create consciousness, so this lends support to a theistic view of the world. The soul has been historically been understood as an immaterial substance that contains consciousness and animates the body or makes the body enlivened. The problem for the atheist is to explain how you could get mind from matter.
If you start with the Big Bang and the history of the universe is a history where matter simply rearranges to form increasingly larger or more complicated chunks of matter, for many thinkers, what you’re gonna end up with are rearranged chunks of matter. There will be no account for how you could get mind coming into existence. The Christian theist doesn’t have that problem because for the Christian believer in God, the fundamental reality is not particles or matter, it’s a conscious soul, God himself.
If the universe begins with a soul or a spirit that’s conscious, there is no difficulty in explaining where this comes from because it’s part of your fundamental reality. But if you say instead of in the beginning was the logos, in the beginning were the particles, then you have a difficulty accounting for where consciousness and soul or self come from.
            This is Part 1 of a two-part series on Neuroscience & Soul, which has dealt with the question, “Why should Christians be concerned about the existence of the soul?”

            Part 2 will answer the question, “Can science disprove the existence of the soul?”

Endnotes:

1https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxlYKqmE7o0

2https://science.sciencemag.org/content/323/5918/1168.1

3https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxlYKqmE7o0

4https://cct.biola.edu/neuroscience-and-the-soul-j-p-moreland/

Websites last accessed on 22nd July 2019.

Monday, July 15, 2019

If Jesus Did Not Mention It, Is It A Sin?


            While discussing sins and their relevance today, beware of an argument predicated on what Christ said or did not. The whole intent of invoking Christ’s saying is to declassify sins. Do not get deceived by such an argument, for it merely depicts the person’s lack of knowledge, or worse – his/her innate depravity.

            For instance, if homosexuality is the sin under consideration, the person who tacitly or explicitly endorses homosexuality would argue, “Jesus neither mentioned homosexuality as sin nor condemned it; hence homosexuality cannot be a sin.”

            If this argument is posed by a young and a naïve believer or an unbeliever of Christ, then this person is merely exhibiting an unpretentious lack of knowledge.

            But the same argument would be asinine or sophomoric or cretinous if it’s posed by a person claiming to be mature and knowledgeable. Such a person is innately depraved. Beware of such people.

            This argument is fallacious for many reasons.

            The God of the Bible is a blessed Trinity. They are co-equal. Perfect harmony exists between the three persons of the blessed Trinity.

            If God the Father (the first person of the blessed Trinity) classified homosexuality as a sin, then Jesus Christ (the second person of the blessed Trinity) would not declassify homosexuality from its status of sin to being acceptable behavior.

            But those who either tacitly or explicitly strive to endorse homosexuality place Jesus in such a horrendous position as if HE contradicts God the Father.

            Dr. Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Dallas and an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, in his article, entitled Did Jesus Condemn Homosexuality? exposes three flaws in the argument that Jesus never condemned homosexuality:1 (Emphasis Mine)

When confronted with verses in the New Testament against homosexuality, homosexual advocates will quickly go to another myth of homosexuality. And that is, Jesus never condemned homosexuality. That argument is flawed in three important ways.
First, that argument assumes that Jesus’ words are more authoritative than the rest of the Bible. To say Jesus never condemned it is to say that Jesus’ words carry more weight than the words of the apostle Paul or the apostle Peter or any other scripture. But we don’t believe that as Christians. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” Those are all God’s words.
Second, the argument fails to realize that by affirming the truthfulness of the Old Testament, Jesus automatically condemned homosexuality. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Let me illustrate it this way. Let’s say somebody came up to you and said, “I believe President Obama is pro-slavery.” You say, “Why would you say such a thing?” And your friend says, “Well, I did some research. Of all of the speeches the president has given, in not one speech did he speak out against slavery. Therefore, he is pro-slavery.” Would that be a logical deduction? Of course not. At his inauguration, the president swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. And the Constitution prohibits slavery. Thus by swearing to uphold the Constitution, he was saying, “I am going to uphold all the laws, including laws against slavery.” It’s the same way with Jesus. When Jesus upheld the Old Testament, He was automatically condemning homosexuality.
Third, by upholding God’s plan for sexuality, Jesus did condemn homosexuality. In Matthew 19 the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus by questioning Him on the issue of divorce and remarriage. Jesus answered by going back to God’s original plan for human sexuality, which is this: sex is reserved for a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Yes, it’s true that Jesus never mentioned the word “homosexuality.” He never said, “You shall not commit homosexuality.” But guess what? Jesus never said, “You shall not commit incest.” Jesus never said, “You shall not commit bestiality or pedophilia or necrophilia.” Was he pro-necrophilia and pedophilia? Of course not. By upholding God’s pattern for sexuality–a man and a woman in a marriage relationship–Jesus automatically condemned any deviation from that pattern.

            It is a fact that Jesus never condemned smoking weed, spousal abuse (domestic violence), piracy of intellectual property, bestiality, pedophilia, necrophilia, and many more sins. But it would be rather immature of a Christian to endorse such a sin because Jesus never publically condemned it.

            An article in the Canadian edition of The Gospel Coalition website exposes the flaw in this argument by using another example:2

Asking whether or not Jesus ever talked about homosexuality is somewhat analogous to asking whether or not Jesus ever talked about elder abuse.
Kind of.
But not exactly.
Jesus never used the specific words “elder abuse” but he did rebuke the Pharisees for not properly honouring their parents (Mark 7:12-13) and he did cite approvingly the 5th commandment, which states:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 ESV)
So yes, Jesus would disapprove of elder abuse but no, he never addressed the topic directly using that particular term.
Much the same would have to be said with respect to the question about homosexuality.
Jesus did rebuke the Pharisees for having a low regard for the Biblical ideal of covenantal marriage. He said to them:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4–6 ESV)
Clearly Jesus affirmed the Biblical vision of marriage as a life long union between one man and one woman. He affirmed sexuality within that particular context when he said, approvingly, “the two shall become one flesh”. And he did so by referring authoritatively to a passage from the Old Testament.
Furthermore, Jesus referred negatively and disapprovingly to all forms of sexual immorality. He said in Matthew 15:19-20:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Matthew 15:19–20 ESV)
To “defile” means to make unclean. In the Old Testament it referred to what put one outside the worshipping community; the term is used in a similar sense in Revelation 21:27:
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27 ESV)
Therefore, Jesus is saying that evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness and slander are defiling sins that would exclude us from the everlasting Kingdom of God – presumably if not confessed and forgiven through his atoning work on the cross.
But what did Jesus mean, precisely, when he referred to “sexual immorality” as one of those defiling and excluding sins?
The Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament And Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG) defines the word porneia, translated in most Bibles as “sexual immorality”, as involving “unlawful sexual intercourse”. The Jewish law provides a long list of what constitutes unlawful sexual intercourse in Leviticus 18-20. According to those statutes, a man was forbidden to have sex with the following:
1. His neighbour’s wife (Leviticus 18:21)
2. Another man (Leviticus 18:22)
3. An animal (Leviticus 18:23)
4. His mother in law (Leviticus 20:11)
5. His daughter in law (Leviticus 20:12)
6. His sister (Leviticus 20:17)
Sex with any of these would be considered porneia – unlawful.
According to Jesus sex of this sort defiles a person and thus places them outside the worshipping community and outside the eternal kingdom of God.
Therefore it certainly cannot be argued that Jesus affirmed or was indifferent toward the issue of homosexual sex. Jesus clearly endorsed the Old Testament vision of marriage as an inviolable covenant between one man and one woman and he clearly viewed unlawful sex as being the sort of thing that defiled a person and placed them outside the kingdom of God. Jesus did not use the word “homosexuality” but neither did he use the word “incest” or “bestiality”. He did not need to. In using the Greek word porneia he identified with how the Jewish law delineated lawful and unlawful sex.
According to Jesus, unlawful sex is sin.
Sin separates us from God.
But thanks be to God, Jesus came to offer his life as a sacrifice of atonement and is therefore able to offer forgiveness to all lawbreakers and sinners.
Including you.
And including me.
Jesus said that he was going to the cross in order to secure forgiveness for broken men and women just like us. At the Last Supper he passed a cup to his disciples and said:
this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28 ESV)
Unlawful sex is sin.
Theft is sin.
Murder, adultery, false witness and slander are sin.
But thanks be to God – all such sins can be forgiven and forever washed away through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.
Hallelujah!
SDG,
Pastor Paul Carter

            So to conclude, any argument that strives to endorse (or declassify) homosexuality or any other sin based on the fact that Jesus never condemned it, is fallacious and the agency of this fallacy i.e. the person/institution that conveys this fallacy should be disregarded.

Endnotes:
1http://www.firstdallas.org/icampus/blog/did-jesus-condemn-homosexuality/

2https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/ad-fontes/jesus-ever-talk-homosexuality/

Websites last accessed on 15th July 2019.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Pastor Joel Osteen, Lady Gaga, Gay Pride Month; The Enemy Within & A Bright Future


            Any school going teen raised within the confines of Historic Christian worldview will consider gay marriage as an aberration. But LGBTQ movement is gaining traction in every nook and corner of our world. This unholy movement will continue to assault the traditional heterosexual marriage (between a male and a female). So our next generation may even consider gay marriage at par with the monogamous heterosexual marriage.

            Given this existential reality, we who subscribe to Historic Christianity should be concerned with another entity. Not the secular world, but another entity.

            Beware of the enemy within!

            ““Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves,” says the Bible about the enemy within (Matthew 7:15, NET).  

            The enemy within could be far more dangerous and destructive than the enemy outside our domain. In this context, the enemy within is the group of Christians who actively endorse the LGBTQ agenda. Call them the Progressive or Liberal or the Postmodern Christians.

            Do not be deceived when you observe Pastor Joel Osteen and his wife attend Lady Gaga’s gay pride event, “Joel Osteen has fallen so far down into apostasy that his seared conscience doesn’t even alert him anymore when trouble is on the horizon, such was the case on Monday night at the SiriusXM and Pandora merger event in New York City. Joel and his wife Victoria were in attendance at the Lady Gaga Pride concert featuring drag queens, amazingly foul language and the endless glorification of the LGBTQ+P for Pedophile agenda. It seems that the Osteens had no problems at all attending such an event, which is not surprising considering how they have been creeping ever closer to supporting same-sex marriage.”1

            It’s a known fact that Pastor Joel Osteen tacitly endorses the LGBTQ agenda, “On October 2, 2013 Pastor Osteen joined Josh Zepps on HuffPost Live for a more relaxed and intimate interview.

            Zepps read a piece that he liked from Osteen’s new book: “It doesn’t matter who likes you or doesn’t like you, all that matters is that God likes you. He accepts you, he approves of you.” Zepps followed up by asking if that included homosexuals.

            “Absolutely,” Osteen insisted, “I believe that God breathed life into every person and that every person is made in the image of God and you have accept (sic) them as they are, on their journey. I’m not here to preach hate or push people down.””2 (Emphasis Mine).

            God loves everyone, sinners included. Therefore, God loves homosexuals. But God does not approve of the practice of homosexuality. In other words, God loves the person, who is a homosexual but detests the practice of homosexuality.

            So when Pastor Joel Osteen says that God approves of homosexuals, he seems to say that God approves of homosexuality, but nothing could be further from the truth.

            Sincere yet naïve Christians who may adore celebrity preachers like Pastor Joel Osteen should beware of such false teachings.

            The secular world may force its LGBTQ agenda into our domain. This is expected of them. But instead of remaining true to the Bible, a significant portion of Christian denominations and its leaders, especially the celebrity preachers whom many Christians adore, endorse sins and declassify them as acceptable practices. In the process, these people try to usurp God from HIS throne. But God cannot be usurped. What God termed a sin will always remain a sin. Of course, I am referring to LGBTQ practices.

            We who worship the living God should have the mind to reject such teachings because such teachings contradict the Word of God. If we endorse homosexuality because we blindly accept the teachings of these heretical celebrity preachers, we tread on dangerous ground.

            So beware of the enemy within!

            The future, however, seems to be bright for those who remain true to God’s Word.

            Nancy Pearcey quotes Andrew Sullivan to assert that the support for LGBTQ agenda among our younger generation is reducing. Here's an excerpt of Andrew Sullivan's article from Nancy Pearcey's Facebook page:3

Andrew Sullivan (homosexual columnist) says support for trans ideology is going down
For the first time, we’re seeing a sharp drop in tolerance of “LGBTQ” people among the younger generation. This is an entirely new phenomenon. It used to be the young that spearheaded toleration and inclusion. Now they’re suddenly bolting in the opposite direction:
“The number of Americans 18 to 34 who are comfortable interacting with LGBTQ people slipped from 53 percent in 2017 to 45 percent in 2018 — the only age group to show a decline,” according to the annual [GLAAD] report. And that is down from 63 percent in 2016. “36 percent of young people said they were uncomfortable learning a family member was LGBTQ in 2018, compared with 29 percent in 2017, and 24 percent in 2016. 34 percent were uncomfortable learning their doctor was LGBTQ vs. 27 percent a year earlier. 39 percent were uncomfortable learning their child had a school lesson on LGBTQ history vs. 30 percent in 2017.”
Or check this out: 62 percent of young men regarded themselves as “allies” of LGBTQ people in 2016; only 35 percent now say the same — a near-halving of support. Women “allies” have dropped from 65 to 52 percent.
The turn began in the year that the Obama administration — with no public discussion or congressional support — imposed critical gender theory on America’s high schools, determining sex to be whatever a student says it is. The imposition of trans ideology by fiat on the entire country’s young — along with severe public stigma for those with even the slightest questions — was almost textbook left authoritarianism. Well meant, perhaps. But dictatorial.
Even GLAAD, the culture police for the gay left, concedes that the transformation of the gay-rights movement into a trans movement steeped in critical gender theory in the past few years is likely the reason... GLAAD vows to crack down ever more firmly on those who aren’t fully onboard with its agenda. The last thing GLAAD would do is ask itself if it is actually exacerbating the problem, and that the redefinition of almost everyone’s sex and gender to accommodate less than 1 percent of the population is why this resistance is happening....
Kids are not stupid. They know they are being propagandized. This poll suggests the backlash has arrived, and it will likely grow."

Endnotes:

1https://www.nowtheendbegins.com/little-monsters-joel-osteen-wife-victoria-honored-guests-lady-gaga-pride-concert-new-york-city-monday-night/

2https://www.huffpost.com/entry/joel-osteen-larry-king-homosexuality_n_4591090?guccounter=1

3https://www.facebook.com/nancy.pearcey.7/posts/10157425523754241

Websites last accessed on 30th July 2019.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Are There Lesser & Greater Sins?


            Andrew Murray1 defined sin as an assault against God. Millard J. Erickson defines sin as, “Sin is any evil action or motive that is in opposition to God. Simply stated, sin is a failure to let God be God and placing something or someone in God’s rightful place of supremacy.” 2

            Are all sins the same? Is stealing a loaf of bread the same as murdering the neighbor?

            The wages of sin is death, teaches the Bible3– small and big included.

            Wayne Grudem in his work Systematic Theology explains why all sins need not be construed as the same. However, in another sense, he asserts that all sins are the same.

            In a legal sense, even a very small sin makes us legally guilty before God and therefore worthy of eternal punishment. The classic case of Adam and Eve’s disobedience against God resulted in the penalty of death (Genesis 2:17 cf. Romans 5:16). That one sin made Adam and Eve sinners before God. They were no longer able to stand in HIS Holy presence.

            Galatians 3:10 and James 2:10-11 also teaches us that we are guilty even if we commit one small sin. Therefore, in the legal sense, every sin, large or small does not matter, makes us guilty before God.

            The Bible also teaches us that some sins are worse than others because they have more harmful consequences in our lives and in the lives of others, and in terms of our personal relationship to God as Father, they arouse HIS displeasure more and bring more serious disruption to our fellowship with HIM.

            When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, he referred to a greater sin, “Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all, unless it was given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of greater sin.”” (John 19:11, NET, Emphasis Mine). Jesus referred to Judas, who had known HIM for three intimate years, yet willfully betrayed HIM to death. Thus the sin of Judas was greater because of Judas’ far greater knowledge and malice connected with it.

            God while showing Ezekiel the visions of sins in the temple of Jerusalem referred to greater sins, “He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing—the great abominations that the people of Israel are practicing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see greater abominations than these!”… He said to me, “You will see them practicing even greater abominations!”… He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? You will see even greater abominations than these!”” (Ezekiel 8:6,13,15, NET, Emphasis Mine).

            Christ also refers to some sins as lesser than the others, “So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19, NET, Emphasis Mine).

            Similarly, Christ while pronouncing woes on the Pharisees said, ““Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness!” (Matthew 23:23, NET, Emphasis Mine).

            Presence of lesser and greater commandments imply certain sins being of a lesser magnitude than the others or certain sins being worse than other sins in terms of God’s own evaluation of their importance.

            Wayne Grudem goes on to explain further.

            We can readily see how some sins have much more harmful consequences for ourselves and others and for our relationship with God. If I were to covet my neighbor’s car, that would be a sin before God. But if my coveting led me to actually steal the car, that would be a more serious sin. If in the course of stealing the car I also fought with my neighbor and injured him or recklessly injured someone else as I drove the car, that would be even more serious sin.

           Similarly, if a new Christian, who previously had a tendency to lose his temper and get into fights, begins witnessing to his unbelieving friends and, one day is so provoked he loses his temper and actually strikes someone, that is certainly sin in God’s sight. But if a mature pastor or other prominent Christian leader were to lose his temper publicly and strike someone, that would be even more serious in God’s sight, both because of the harm that would come to the reputation of the gospel and because those in leadership positions are held to a higher standard of accountability by God: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.”(James 3:1, NET, Emphasis Mine) and “But the one who did not know his master’s will and did things worthy of punishment will receive a light beating. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48, NET, Emphasis Mine).

            Our conclusion, then, is that in terms of results and in terms of degree of God’s displeasure, some sins are certainly worse than others.

            June marks LGBTQ Pride month, so an application of the doctrine of greater and lesser sin to homosexuality would be appropriate.

            We can confidently assert that possessing a homosexual orientation need not be a sin if that orientation is not practiced via romantic gay relationships. A mere homosexual orientation excluding the lustful thoughts need not be a sin because the orientation does not lead to either lustful thoughts or a detestable homosexual behavior.

            Finally, here’s a prayer point. Let us pray that our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community will seek the power of the Triune God to not allow their orientation to give birth to sinful and detestable practices against God.

Endnotes:

1Andrew Murray, a famous Christian writer, in his work The Joy of being Forgiven

2Christian Theology (Second Edition)

3Romans 6:23