2013-03-14

Christian Apologetics

Just thought I'd address some of the points made here: http://www.ranker.com/list/top-20-bible-passages-to-use-against-fundamentalists/ivana-wynn

I'm human, so my studies may be flawed, but I'll give it my best shot.

To begin with, I'll quote my brother: "First, you have to understand that the Bible is to be taken as a whole. Much of the Old Testament was expressly fulfilled in the New Testament, and is specifically said to be no longer binding for Christians. Culture and context also tell us a lot. For example, the OT law was given at a time when Israel was a theocracy. Many of the laws are not possible to enforce except in the supernatural context of a theocracy. Clearly those laws aren't applicable to us right now. Second, even if we ignore the theocratic government of Israel at the time, the whole nation agreed to a covenant. In the absence of such a national covenant, many laws are again, impossible to enforce. They cannot be enforced by individuals, but require the unified cooperation of family, church, and state."

That sets a good prerequisite for a lot of them, but I'll do my best to address each one still.

1. No Bastards May Enter the Church

That statement is based on this verse: "No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD." (Deuteronomy 23:2)

This meant they couldn't be leaders of the church because it was considered un-holy to be born out of wedlock. We are now made holy by Christ though, and new standards for church leadership are given 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Timothy+3%3A1-7&version=ESV)

2. Women Will Never Teach or Have Authority Over Men

This is based on Timothy 2:11-12, "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." Also relevant is 1 Corinthians 14:34-15, "The wives should keep silent in the churches ... [they] should be in submission, as the Law also says. If they have questions, let them ask their husbands at home."

There's plenty of controversy over this that I don't particularly want to get into on the internet.  But regardless, the Bible makes it clear that husbands have the responsibility of being the spiritual leaders of their homes, and wives are to submit to that. And for the wife to raise questions and disputes in the church was considered to be stepping out from under the leadership of the husband. Paul is discouraging that.

This does not at all mean that women can't teach men or be in authority over men in their jobs or wherever.

3. Divorce and Remarrying Are Both Considered Adultery

This is a definite teaching of Christianity, so I have nothing to refute as far as that statement. I'd even take it a step further by mentioning that Jesus taught in Matthew 5:28 that looking at someone with lust is adultery. I will refute the conclusions Ivana makes based on that though.

He says that, "
According to this passage, all members of the congregation that have been divorced and/or remarried would be sinners and should be kicked out of the church." and that "If anyone ... has ever been divorced or re-married, then they are going to hell."

This is where Ivana clearly doesn't understand what Christians believe. The fact is, we do believe that lust and divorce and pre-marital-sex and every other sin makes us guilty before God and that as a good judge, our sins do make us deserving of hell.  BUT, the core of our belief is that Jesus paid the punishment for that sin FOR us, making us holy and righteous before God.  Yes, we're sinners. But praise God for taking the punishment for that sin for us if we put our trust in Him rather than ourselves or anyone/anything else. So his conclusion that those people should be shunned or kicked out of church or will go to hell has absolutely no basis. It means we're deserving of hell -- just like everyone who's ever lied, stolen, lusted, used God's name as a curse, etc. It means we're sinners. But that is exactly what Christianity is all about -- God reconciling sinners to Himself.

4. Even A Look Counts As Adultery

No argument here. See #3.

Ivana seems to think that an imperfect Christian is a hypocrite, when in reality, without the belief that we are sinners, Christianity doesn't even make sense.

5. Love Thy Neighbor. Seriously.


Based on this verse: "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19: 17-18)

I agree wholeheartedly with Ivana on this one and their conclusion. I do think that the Westboro Baptist Church's protests and such are extremely un-Christian and wrong. I don't know any Christians who endorse anything done by that church.

This verse is an example of how I believe that the Bible put into action makes the world a better place.

6. Non-Virgins Are To Be Stoned (As in, with Rocks)

From Deuteronomy 22: 20-21 "But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you."

I'd like to add verse 22 also, "If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel."

See my brother's comment at the beginning of this post.  Here we see that all forms of adultery and fornication were punishable by death. God clearly takes these sins very seriously, and they weren't permitted in the theocracy of Israel. We're not in a theocracy any more though.

7. A Woman's Punishment For Defending Her Husband = Cut Off Her Hand

This one's kinda funny to me.  Based on Deuteronomy 25:11-12. Basically, if two guys are fighting and one of their wives came to help and grabbed the other guy's balls as a method of attack, they were to cut off her hand and not pity her for it. Again -- this was a theocracy, so not something to be enforced today. Many people would still consider that to be shameful and dishonorable today though. 

8. Men With Wounded Penises or No Testicles Are Not Allowed in Church

Based on Deuteronomy 23:1. This kinda goes along with #1, where un-clean/un-holy/imperfect people weren't allowed to be priests or whatever. This doesn't apply to us today, as we are made holy through Christ, and even at the time it was not to demean the maimed, but rather to show how perfect and holy God is.

9. Your Family Is Your Enemy and You Are All Competing for God's Love

Based on Matthew 10:35-27, "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

No doubt any Christians who come from Muslim families or any others who forbid anyone in their religion to convert to other religions can identify with this verse very well. We probably don't get this as much here in America, but both in the area Jesus was then and in many parts of the world today, believing in Christ literally meant/means being cut off from your family and household and rejected. That's not His goal, but it is a result of the radical change that takes place when a person decides to put God #1 in their life above everything and everyone else.  And yes -- it is saying that God does have to be our #1.  Nowhere does it say we're competing for God's love though.

10. Women Must Cover Their Hair During Prayer

"But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head..." 1 Corinthians 11:5

First of all, as I understand it, this is referring to praying aloud and teaching in the church, and "her head" at the end is referring to her husband. So sort of along with #2, this was a way of her showing respect for and submission to her husband if/when she did teach in the church.

And Paul goes on to say, "Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God."

This sounds like a cultural thing to me. As I understand it, he's basically saying, "Use your own judgement on this. Is it proper? Doesn't what I'm saying fit in with what you observe around you? But if you don't agree with me, I'm just letting you know that this is pretty standard in all the churches."

And I think in our culture and what it means to have your head covered or to have long/short hair, the exact statements here don't really apply. And Paul gives us the freedom to judge for ourselves rather or not it's proper.

11. Giving Birth to a Daughter Makes You Unclean for 66 Days

"But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days." (Leviticus 12:5)

Ivana's conclusions on this are disgusting. It's along the same lines as #1 and #8. There were constant things made to remind them of their un-cleanness before God. This doesn't mean that they had to "go through 66 days of church-mandated shame". Rather it was part of a ton of other commandments that were constant reminders to the Israelites of their own un-cleanness before God and their need for His grace to be right with Him. Again -- believers today are made clean/holy by Christ's sacrifice for us.

12. Cursing At Your Parents Warrants Death

"For every one that curses his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him." (Leviticus 20:9)

Goes along with #6. God's commandments are a serious thing and breaking them is serious. We're not in a theocracy any more though, so we shouldn't carry out this punishment today.

13. If You Disobey God, You Will Eat Your Babies

"If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters." (Leviticus 26:27-30)

Ivana says, "If you break even a single one of these rules, you need to eat your children. Doesn't matter how old they are, doesn't matter what you do, but if you disobey God and his ways, he's going to wreak some serious havoc."

This is just ridiculous. First of all, this verse is pulled out of context. It is in a long list where God is basically telling the entire nation how the world works. He's saying, look, if, as a nation, you do things my way, then things are going to work really well for you. But if you don't, things are going to work out really badly for you.  And we see this in reality. Nations who have followed God's principles have prospered, while those who don't, don't. And you do see cultures and religions who reject God doing things as extreme as eating their own children.

The passage is God saying, "Look. My way really is best."

Ivana's conclusion that if you break a single commandment, you need to eat your children is preposterous and has no backing at all. The passage isn't even talking about individuals, but rather an entire nation/culture. And this isn't a command. It's telling what will happen.

14. If You Steal Something, or Sin in Any Way: Cut Off Your Hand

"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched." (Mark 9:43)

This goes along with #9 where I talked about how God has to be our #1. I'm not entirely sure how fundamentalists interpret this passage, but it seems to me even by the way it's worded to perhaps be hyperbole and along the same lines as Hebrews 12:1-2, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."  Basically, there's nothing more important than following Christ -- so if anything is preventing you from following Him, get rid of it. Better to live without it than to go to hell eternally.

Part of why I think it's hyperbole is the fact that our hand is not really what's responsible for us sinning. Our minds control our hands. But He states it very clearly and strongly that if something's preventing us from following Him, get rid of it -- no matter what the cost -- because it's more than worth it.

15. No Sex During A Woman's Period

"...thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness." (Leviticus 18:19)

In the Old Testament, blood was considered holy. And women were considered un-clean while on their periods. And men were considered unclean if they made any contact with it. It all served as a constant reminder to everyone of their un-cleanness before God.

Jesus's blood made all things clean, so this doesn't apply to us after Christ. The Levitical ceremonial laws do not apply today. There is no biblical reason why a married couple cannot have sex during the wife’s period. Today, this issue must be decided by a husband and wife in the spirit of “mutual consent” as 1 Corinthians 7:5 describes.

16. If Your Brother Dies, You Need to Bang His Wife

Based on Deuteronomy 25:5-6, "If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel."

Again, this was old testament in the theocracy of Israel. Also, the passage goes on state that he doesn't have to if he doesn't want to, but that it was considered shameful for him to refuse. It's not saying, "bang her", it's saying marry her and be her husband and love her, and let the firstborn take the name of the dead brother so his name/lineage will continue. Ivana even says, "From a traveling crowd of people that were homeless for 40 years, this actually makes sense... but not so much for this day and age."  I kind of agree.  And I would contend that it's not meant for this day and age.  All the laws in this section are for the Jewish nation.

17. Deformed People Cannot Approach God

"For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken. No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God." (Leviticus 21:18-21) 

Goes right along with #8. The priests who offered sacrifices were to be clean and "perfect". Again, Christians are made clean/holy by Jesus, and we can now all approach God through Him.

18. Discipline Your Little Ones

Ivana uses Psalm 137:9, "How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock." which isn't even talking about discipline at all. Rather, it's part of a song/poem talking about when Israel was in captivity of Babylon. Verse 8 is, "O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, how blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us."

This is a song/poem written by David. "your little ones" was "Babylon's children". This is a poetic way of referring to the Babylonians. We're commanded by Jesus to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. I would conclude from this, though, that it's certainly proper for the oppressed to pray to God for freedom and for Him to make the oppressors collapse. Perhaps if you imagine the Jews singing or writing this about Hitler it won't seem so wrong to you.

As far as disciplining children though, there are other verses in the Bible that do tell parents to discipline their children properly and train them.  You can usually tell if this is done or not based on rather or not a child is a complete brat. Ivana tries to twist this unrelated verse into saying that you'll enjoy beating your kids and hitting them with rocks. No verses in the Bible say this though -- rather discipline is always for the good of the child.

19. Give A Thief Your Belongings

"If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also." (Matthew 5:40)

This is in a passage where Jesus is speaking against the whole, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." philosophy and telling us to do the opposite. It goes along with the verse in #5 about loving others and not seeking revenge and such. Instead of hating our enemies, we are to love them. Instead of being scrooges, help people. He's calling us to a whole new life built around serving and loving others rather than being focused on ourselves.

I faced something somewhat similar to this personally when I was accused falsely for something and had the choice of either hanging on to it and doing everything in my power to bring down my accuser, or trust God with it and let it go. I tried to fight it quite a while, but it was only after I let it go that I had peace. I believe Jesus is truly calling us to a radical life of selflessness and loving and serving. Do we as Christians always do this? No. It's a high calling to be sure, and we fail, and we sin in our failure. But that doesn't make Jesus's calling something to mock. Rather, it's something to strive for. A purpose in life that does bring joy and peace.

Ivana's conclusion that "God didn't honestly grant his followers free will and in reality wants to turn them into obedient and mindless robots who can't think for themselves" doesn't even make sense to me. We are told to think for ourselves. But our thinking as Christians should be different because we know that God is our provider, and that we glorify Him by following Him.

20. Invite Your Attacker To Beat You More

"But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." (Matthew 5:39)

This is in the very same passage refuting the "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth" attitude. It doesn't mean that if someone's trying to kill you that you should just let them. A smack on the cheek is meant to provoke a fight. We should be above such provokes, and as Romans 12:18 says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."

2012-12-05

Thin Ice -- My interpretation


It can have multiple meanings, but the primary one I was thinking of was someone trying to be perfect for someone they're in a relationship with in every way they know how, and being frustrated because the other person is angry so much and isn't responding the way they want.  This isn't about an abusive or horrible relationship, even though it might kinda sound like it.  It's more about two normal people, people like I've seen plenty of times, one of whom (I'll assume it's a male for my explanation) is dissatisfied with life and therefore grumpy, and the other (assuming female for the example -- the one talking) is trying to find everything they need in that dissatisfied person, and being frustrated by it.

I'm tiptoeing
Trying not to make a sound
It might be too loud
Or maybe you want me to talk now?

She's tiptoeing around, trying to do everything right, afraid of making him person upset.  She feels like anything she does could set him off, so she's basically trying to not exist. Or maybe he wants her to talk now? The uncertainty of how to please him is miserable.

I'm terified
Even though you won't hurt me
But your words might sting
Even though they are not meant for me

She's constantly afraid of setting him off, upsetting him, maybe even being yelled at.  But in the back of her mind, she knows those mean words aren't really directed at her -- they come from a deeper dissatisfaction with life or something. They still hurt though.

I'm traveling
Walking on paper thin ice
Ice that is melting
And yet still I think I'm breaking it

Again, the thin ice is his mood. The ice is melting though, and she can't do anything about it.  Yet still she blames herself for it breaking

I'm perfection
Don't I do everything right?
Where is my reward?
You should know how to love me by now

Finally, she's just frustrated, because she IS doing everything right, and it's totally NOT her fault for how he's so often in a bad mood.

I'm frustrated
Lost, wanting validation
Or some sympathy
But still looking in the wrong places

She's frustrated, doesn't know what to do, and wants to feel justified in her frustration but she's still looking for validation in the guy.

I'm remembering
I'm still learning to love too
And it's not my fault
Love is not bought, but can it be taught?

Then she starts to realize that his short personality and temper are not her fault. That he simply still learning how to love her in the ways she needs. That she can't buy his love by loving him, but can it be taught?

I'm listening
And I think I understand
It's not about me
All the times I hurt made you regret

Finally she starts to see that all his dissatisfaction and everything isn't about her.  He does love her, and he regrets any and every time he made her feel un-loved.  He's struggling with life though.

I'm progressing
I can tell you love me still
So let the ice break
It's cold anyway, and you're freezing

That's a big step forward for her, and in the end she realizes that she can best love him by saying bring it on to everything that's making him un-happy and working with him as he overcomes it.  He's not happy -- he's freezing -- so rather than blaming herself, making him feel guilty, or whatever, she should encourage him to get all of that stuff out. To share it, to be mad about it, whatever it takes, so they can move forward.



Inspiration
Most of the inspiration for this came from couples I've observed. Especially people blaming themself for every negative thing their partner says.  Making themselves responsible for things they're not, and all the while finding their complete validation in what their partner says, making it doubly damaging.

It also came partly from something my wife and I were going through at the time.  I felt like I was trying pretty hard and doing pretty well at doing everything I possibly could "right" to make her happy and everything, and yet it felt like every little thing -- a computer acting up, our internet going out for 10 seconds, friends not meeting expectations, etc. would set her off and put her in a bad mood and make me terrified to be around her.

But what I came to realize was that this was that this was because I was looking at it all wrong.  She's not always like that, so something was causing it.  She felt bad about it and repeatedly apologized and tried to make it up to me, so it clearly wasn't ME causing it. (Though I'm sure my whipped dog attitude every time she got mad about something was the opposite of beneficial.)  So I realized that I needed to stop worrying about myself and moping that she wasn't being fair or whatever, and just love her, and if possible, dive into everything troubling her with her and work through it all together.  And while I still don't know everything affecting her moods during that time -- hormones, stress, anxiety, lack of self worth, lack of self discovery, and much more I'm sure -- it was a big step forward and we are currently happier together than we've ever been!

I think it's an ever present temptation and trap to try to be everything your partner needs, or to find everything you need in your partner.  Obviously I believe there are physical and emotional needs that are only meant to be met by a spouse, but there's a lot of other needs that are also meant to be met by God and through other friends and family.

2012-10-22

Love and Humility

We've been talking about love and humility a lot at church lately.  In fact, listening to older sermons I'd say that's always a common theme at our church, and I feel rightly so.

It's interesting how closely related love and humility are.  Both are about putting others above ourselves.  And with both, the closer we think we are to truly loving or being truly humble, the further away from true love and humility we tend to be.  In general, whenever I'm thinking, "I'm doing a good job being loving!" what I'm thinking on a deeper level is "They sure do owe me for being such a great guy!", which is completely self-centered and pretty much the polar opposite of love. In the same way, the more humble we think we are the more prideful we are of our imagined humility.

But really, both of those are just human nature, aren't they?  How can we as humans truly love without receiving it in return?  We get tired and just worn out trying, don't we? How can we love with a love that is limitless and not at all based on rather we're receiving love or rather the person we love deserves any of it?  And how can we be truly humble when all our efforts at humility lead us to comparing it to the people around us, and consequently becoming prideful?

The only answer for those questions is that we can not. We can not show love without receiving it, and we cannot be humble when we compare ourselves to the people around us.

I believe the ONLY solution is for us to draw from the only infinite source of love, and compare ourselves to the only ultimate example of humility.  Because when we fill our love tank from God, and fulfill our need for love in HIS infinite, pure love, we can then start to love others even when they hurt us and don't love us in return. We can finally stop focusing on what we think they should be doing and focus on just loving them. And we see in God's love how to love, and what it really means to be humble. And we can get past how good of a job we think we're doing and realize the truth of Matthew 20:16, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."


In other news, I am participating in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend to support the kids of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital! As a St. Jude Hero, I have committed to raise $1000 for the kids of St. Jude. I feel that this is a very noble cause, and would like to ask you personally to help me support St. Jude by donating today at http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=2006882&pg=personal&fr_id=3631.

Your donation helps by ensuring that no family ever has the burden of having to pay St. Jude for anything. It also ensures that St. Jude is able to continue changing the way the world treats childhood cancer and other deadly diseases through its research.