Friday, June 12, 2020

Racism, Just Another Sin

Newsweek unwittingly stumbles onto a Biblical reality with a question published on a recent cover. That Biblical reality is our sin nature, racism being but 1 aspect of that nature. To wit, perhaps a more valid question would have been, is your baby sinful? That would have covered the entire gamut of societal ills.  But, of course, it would have also opened a can of worms that the editors of Newsweek would have probably just as sooned stay hidden away. Better to deal with the sin of others than to admit that the can you just opened contains worms that nuzzle at your own breasts. 

 Nevertheless, the heart of man is the issue; it always has been, and it always will be. It is at the root of sins such as greed, in which it is in vogue to condemn, and at the root of those sins it is no longer popular to condemn at all. Sadly, however, the refusal to accept this reality will continue to confound those whose hopes it is to build a racist-free society. For one, with racism defined as "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities..."[Webster], the architects only succeed in accomplishing the opposite of their intentions by laying a foundation based on racism. For a foundation based on the assertion that racism is a problem with only a certain race, as opposed to a sin common to mankind, is indeed a racist foundation. The reality is however, to end racism in a society, that society must first realize that racism can no more be ended than murder, theft, lying, and adultery. Even though, as with other sins, it can be abated by legislation that applies equally to all, there is nothing like a renewed mind; and a changed heart to bring about true change. But such change does not come from force from without, but emanates from a new heart from within. Unfortunately, God, the architect of real change, has been evicted from modern culture, and with Him a true understanding of the condition of man's heart; and any hopes of racism, as we know it, becoming history. As we now stand, we can expect racism to remain an integral part of America's social fabric for a long time; and this despite the skin colors of those in power; or the best efforts of those intent on eradicating this, their pet sin, even if it kills us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Please Follow Link To New Blog

I'm not 100%, but I'm pretty sure that I'm done with this blog.  I've begun a new blog that is letters to my children.  It can be found by clicking here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Jeffrey Dahmer

One of the most fascinating things about Christianity is its doctrine of grace; a terribly misunderstood doctrine in this day.  While perhaps the majority of those who call themselves Christian in this age see grace as liberty to sin without eternal consequence, real grace bears no resemblance to that mindset.

Every time I have the opportunity to teach the children of parents who attend our church, I will always ask an all important question, how does a person get to Heaven?  With very little exception, the answer involves the flesh or works.  In other words, being good is seen as a requirement. It looks inwardly at what man brings before God.  Now granted these are children, but we must also realize that this is a spiritual deception, a deception that most likely pervades the home where these children reside.  Such is man's natural inclination, I am good, so I deserve good things.

The problem is that scripture contradicts this.  Man is not good.  All men's righteousness is as filthy rags.  But the vast majority of people I encounter see themselves as basically good people who deserve a wonderful afterlife.  But Christianity makes no promise that this is going to happen, and in fact warns that, unless men repent of their sins, it absolutely will not happen.  The Bible is clear, very few in existence are headed to eternal bliss.

Perhaps one of the most shocking and perplexing realities of this truth can be found by contrasting people who see themselves as good with a serial killer of the worst sort, Jeffrey Dahmer.  Dahmer visited gay clubs and bathhouses and put sleeping pills in the drinks of his victims.  He brought them home, chopped them up, had sex with them after they were dead, ate parts of them and kept other parts for souvenirs.  He was a walking nightmare.

One of the most fascinating aspects of grace is that Jeffrey Dahmer, by all indications, will be spending an eternity in Heaven while other, otherwise good people, will not.  For the average man this seems beyond the pale.  There is one man. who doesn't cheat on his wife, who provides for his household, who pays his taxes, and is a pillar in the community, yet he is Hell bound. Then there is  another, who is the worst sort of human being that can be imagined, who is headed for heaven.  To say that this appears to be unfair is an understatement. But it does give us insight into man's condition before a holy and righteous God,

The Christian, on the other hand, understands a key point.  It is not how well we live, but rather does Jesus Christ live in us, and us in Him?  Are we depending on Jesus' righteousness before God, or our own righteousness?  This does not sit well with the man who does not understand the Gospel, as might well be imagined.

Dahmer was asked by his father "when did you first feel that everyone is accountable for their actions?"  Dahmer's answer is priceless, and it involves God's law.

Well thanks to you for sending ah, that ah, creation science ah material.  Because I always, I always believed the lie that ah, evolution is truth, the theory of evolution is truth, that we we all just came from ah, the slime and ah, when we, when we died, you know, that was it, there was nothing.  So, the whole theory cheapens life and ah, started reading books about how--that show how evolution is just a complete lie. There's no, there's no basis in science to it, to uphold it, and have since come to believe that  the lord Jesus Christ is the true creator of ah, the heavens and the earth, and this didn't just happen,    And I have accepted him as my lord and savior, and I believe that I will--as well as everyone else--will be accountable to Him.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Free In Christ Free To Sin

A look at law and grace

A favorite quote of mine by C. H. Spurgeon:
Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather, it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

This kind of discernment, indeed, is the challenge.  Since early in my Christian walk I have many times looked at things and thought to myself, "I'm not sure that's entirely true". I recently ran across just such an article on FB that left me scratching my head.  Here it is:

We aren't free to just be who Christ has made us, if we think we must now do our part by working at living right, since God's done His part by giving us Jesus. The Judaizers pushed people to do their part after accepting Christ; the Devil pushed man into death by convincing him there was more he had to figure out and do; people today say, "Being a Christian isn't just about what Christ has done for us; there are good works that we must now do! There must be balance." 

There's no balance. There was no balance in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and no balance when God raised him from the dead. That all happened without our contribution. All we can do is humbly receive His gift of salvation and righteousness, and then His life becomes our life. We come to dinner at His house and are filled up with His life, which then naturally and spontaneously pours from us, and others are filled! He's the chef, it's all His food and we just get to eat and enjoy ourselves! 

Trying to balance what He's done with our good works will only lead to frustration and defeat. What He's done is so much more than sharing good works back and forth with us! He has done it all and has made us a completely new creation! We aren't workers, trying to match His work. He died and was raised to the right hand of the Father so that we can now just BE. Just BE! Just BE. What absolute FREEDOM!

It has enough truth in it to sound legitimate, but it is the lies, the confusion, and the fallacious arguments that bury the true statements. So I would  like to decipher it by first pointing out the strawman argument the author makes as well as the theologically sound statements.  Also, I will respond to her arguments, then after parsing the article, I will write a conclusion.  

The Strawman

To be sure, we are saved by grace and not works as these two scriptures, among many others, clearly proclaim:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-10)
...and also:
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Rom 11:6)  See also romans 3:19-28
So there is no disputing that we are saved by grace, and the believer rejoices in that fact.  So if we don't dispute that fact, then it stands to reason that we don't argue that we are saved by works. Indeed that would be a different Gospel and would deserve our being accursed. (Gal 1:6-9)  Works and our salvation are two entirely different things, and the two should never ever be confused lest we end up saying something confusing... like the article in question does, and thereby confuse the weak minded in the process.  But if we actually wanted to confuse, or worse, if we were confused ourselves, we, perhaps, could make strawman arguments as this article does.  That is to say, we could make the arguments of those with whom we disagree... if they existed,  in caricatured ways,  and thereby easy-to-refute ways, and then refute them. We might perhaps make a strawman argument like this:

"...people today say, "Being a Christian isn't just about what Christ has done for us; there are good works that we must now do! There must be balance." 
... and then we would refute this unbiblical and silly argument that "people" (none of which I've ever met and as far as I know do not exist beyond perhaps the Catholic Church) are making with something like this:
"There's no balance. There was no balance in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and no balance when God raised him from the dead."
Ahh, the ease of refuting an argument that no one is making.  See how easy that was?

The Truth

So lets get to the truth of the article.  Below are the statements that I think can be backed up easily with scripture:
  1. [Salvation] happened without our contribution. (this makes me wonder if the author would agree that man, dead in his sins, cannot even choose Christ, which would be a work in itself.  She does not reveal her stance on this.)
  2. All we can do is humbly receive His gift of salvation and righteousness, and then His life becomes our life. 
  3. We come to dinner at His house and are filled up with His life, which then naturally and spontaneously pours from us,
  4. Trying to balance what He's done with our good works will only lead to frustration and defeat.
  5.  What He's done is so much more than sharing good works back and forth with us! 
  6. He has done it all and has made us a completely new creation! 
  7. We aren't workers, trying to match His work.
  8. He died and was raised to the right hand of the Father...
The Response

With these statements there is no problem, and as I pointed out, I'm not sure who is arguing against them.  We must however keep the point of her article in the forefront, and these statements have nothing to do with that point.  They only lend their truth as cover for a lie that is the point.  That lie being that the Christian is NOT called to good works but rather to "just be".

This is a lie, for we are clearly called to good works, none of which will save us, nor gain us favor in the sight of God as far as I know.  Let us go to the Word and see some of what God has to say about post-redemption works:
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  (Matt 5:16)
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  (Matt 28:19-20)
"So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —  13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live". (Rom 8:12-14)
If you love Me, (Jesus) you will keep My commandments. John 14:15
 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.(Phil 2:12-13)
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."  Eph 2:10
 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. (Col 1:29)
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.  (1 Tim 2:9-11)
For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (1 Tim 4:10)
Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1 Tim 6:18-19)
...and here is perhaps the most terrifying one of all for me:
 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  22 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'  23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Matt 7:21-23)
Did you catch that last word there?  It is "lawlessness".  Now given the context of that word, and what Jesus is saying, I think this deserves some somber reflection.

And finally the grandaddy wrench in the antinomian spokes of them all from James 2:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?... Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself... But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

So, admittedly this presents a problem, but only for the antinomian, or the one who is anti-law, or as Jesus put it, the lawless.  It would appear at first glance that the Bible contradicts itself, especially in light of this popular passage from Romans which, like James, also uses Abraham to make its point:
 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (Rom 4:1-3)
So this presents us with a predicament.  We could pick the verses we like, then run with those and pretend that the other ones are not there.  Or we could throw our Bibles in the trash, since it is safe to conclude that an all knowing God would never contradict Himself.  Or, we could reconcile the two passages, which, as it turns out, is easily done just so long as we don't confuse justification and sanctification, and we understand that our freedom is not freedom to live according to the flesh but rather freedom to live according to the Spirit, and if we haven't rejected God's law.  (Rom 8:6)

The article rightly points out that we are new creations, and according to scripture, we are! But if we are truly new creations, we are not the old dead creations any more.  We have been regenerated, made alive in Christ, and as such the work of casting off the old Adam, and renewing our minds, is not an act of earning salvation, but simply how those who are saved act.  We do it because we, as new creatures, now hate the fact that we have broken God's law and are still predisposed to breaking His law.  The spirit and the flesh go to war with one another, as Paul so beautifully demonstrates in Roman's 7.  We enter into a new relationship with sin, as it were.  We now hate it.  And every time we stumble, or the Spirit reveals some sin that we were previously unaware of, we fall into a state of worship because we realize that our salvation was no small thing, and that grace has covered that sin we just committed and now hate.  Yes, our salvation from God's wrath was a really big thing and our gratitude overflows because of it.

Parsing The Article:
We aren't free to just be who Christ has made us, if we think we must now do our part by working at living right, since God's done His part by giving us Jesus.
In living our lives, as Christians, there is a gratitude for our salvation.  We realize that we were dead, very dead, completely dead, in our sins... with no hope.  But God, rich in His mercy deigned, for reasons unfathomable to us, to love this world in such a way as to save some of us.  As with scripture, we must therefore always start with Jehovah and then work our way to man.  This sentence does just the opposite.  It starts with man, then works its way to Jehovah.  It raises man up and makes his existence paramount in the grand scheme of things.  If we are to take this statement to its logical conclusion, then since I was born in sin, and by sin was I conceived, Jesus therefore made sin, and he loves sin.  But Jesus' preaching ministry, in contrast, was a call to repentance, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.  We clothe ourselves in Christ, not because we are so beautiful to Jehovah, but rather because Jesus is so beautiful to Jehovah.

The author here inserts a conditional phrase: "...if we think we must now do our part by working at living right, since God has done his part by giving us Jesus"  This is a very confusing phrase.  What Christian wants to have idols, use God's name in vain, dishonor his parents, kill, steal and commit adultery?  Let me rephrase the sentence in light of God's law in a negative sense. "What Christian thinks he must not do these things?"("these things being breaking God's commandments) I raise my hand.  I, for one,  think that I must not do these things.  So here's the question.  Do I think I must not do these things because by my obedience I am doing my part to earn salvation?  Absolutely not praise be to God!  Further, as I've pointed out earlier, I don't know anyone who thinks this way or makes the case that we are saved by works.  So is this woman arguing with the zeitgeist, which is lawlessness, or is she arguing against nobody and no one?

I do however know lots of people who feel free to break God's law while appealing to God's grace.  So, I conclude that this author is making the case that since some want to do these things, that they ought to because Christ has made them to want to do them?  Oh the confusion that abounds!
The Judaizers pushed people to do their part after accepting Christ;
This statement is much like the previous one.  How it is interpreted will depend on the heart of the interpreter.  As I have said, and as it is said often, we do not obey the law in order to be justified, nor are we justified by obeying the law.  Indeed Paul, while speaking to the Judaizers in Galatians 2 says: " '16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.'"  Again, does this mean that I am free to lie, kill, steal, and commit adultery?  What kind of message does this kind of thinking present to this world?  "Hey, you worldly people out there who are condemned by God because of your sin, come to Jesus so you can live in absolute freedom to sin as you desire without having to worry about the wrath of God"!  I am not, for charity's sake, saying that the author is intentionally making this claim.  But what I want to know is, how is this not the ultimate message of this article?
"...the Devil pushed man into death by convincing him there was more he had to figure out and do;" 
This makes absolutely no sense.  God gave man one commandment in the Garden of Eden, "The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,...".  The narrative of the discourse between Eve and the Devil clearly points to the Devils appeal to being, not doing.  The text says:  "The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will BE like God, knowing good and evil."  There was no appeal to do for the sake of doing something.  The appeal was to BE something, namely "like God".  There is absolutely no hint that Adam or Eve ate of the fruit in order to somehow justify themselves before God, which is supposed to support the author's point.  Furthermore, Adam and Eve were pre-covenant of grace.  They actually were under the law, one little law.  So to use them to support grace is misguided.  The author has clearly twisted this scripture to fit into her own narrative, and she really ought not do such things.
"...people today say, 'Being a Christian isn't just about what Christ has done for us; there are good works that we must now do! There must be balance.' " 
This is a logical fallacy known as a strawman and I have already dealt with it.
"There's no balance. There was no balance in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and no balance when God raised him from the dead. That all happened without our contribution. All we can do is humbly receive His gift of salvation and righteousness, and then His life becomes our life. We come to dinner at His house and are filled up with His life, which then naturally and spontaneously pours from us, and others are filled! He's the chef, it's all His food and we just get to eat and enjoy ourselves! "
This can easily be supported by scripture.
"Trying to balance what He's done with our good works will only lead to frustration and defeat."
Taking this sentence on face value I can give it a hearty amen.  But in the context of the rest of the article, my response is more reserved.  As I've said here, and for 2000 years so has orthodox Christianity said, and as church fathers and the Apostles have also proclaimed, we are saved by faith, nothing else.  The dilemma is with sin.  May I go on sinning because, after all, I am not justified by works?  Can I make peace with my flesh?  Does Roman's 7 matter?  Should the law of my mind be at war with the members of my flesh? Does God's law matter?  The answer is straight forward, we should sin no more.  (John 8:11)

What He's done is so much more than sharing good works back and forth with us! 

This is the context of which I spoke above.  And again, it is basically true, with a little charity, but very misleading. Good works here is reduced to a "sharing" with Jesus.  That what he has done is so much more, and to be sure it is much much more, seems to make good works child's play, a little back-and-forth game between Jesus and me, and such games ought to be stopped because they are worthless.  This does not bear out with scripture.

We live in an antinomian age.  Modern western Christianity is very uncomfortable with the law of God.  But somehow, when a husband or wife has an affair and abandons their partner in covenant, or their house is robbed, or their children dishonor them,  God's law suddenly seems to be a little bit more important.  Without law, you see, we have no way of knowing, except for the appeal to our own minds and flesh, what is sin, nor how we ought, as Christians, to live.  Modern Christianity bears this out in our culture.
He has done it all and has made us a completely new creation! We aren't workers, trying to match His work.
True, but what are the implications?  Can we, as new creatures still sin?  Does God's law still apply to the way we live?  Can I, because I am a new creature, now steal, kill, commit adultery, covet my neighbor, and dishonor my parents?  This article seems to imply yes, by all means do.  I am pretty sure the author does not mean this, but everything she says seems to shout the opposite.  We live in a lawless age, it seems to me that if we wanted to speak to the age we would be pointing people to God's law, and especially so with the world.  If there is no law, then there plain and simply is no need for repentance!  "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."  (Gal 3:24)
He died and was raised to the right hand of the Father so that we can now just BE. Just BE! Just BE. What absolute FREEDOM!
And so here we have the concluding sentence that coincides with the first sentence; a call to "being", and more specifically to "just be".  This reminds me of an interview by Stone Phillips with the serial killer and cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer.  Dahmer admitted in the interview (at the 1:26:10 mark) that even though he had surrendered his life to Jesus, that he still felt some compulsions to commit these sins. Would we really want to tell him that the most important thing that Jesus wants for him is to,  "just be, just be, just be"?  To bring it home, I don't want to "just be".  I want to glorify God, a thing I repeatedly fail at without fear of losing my salvation.  I don't feel good when I do, I feel worshipful because I know that my salvation, like Jeffrey Dahmer's, was by no means a small thing.  I have one hope in this life, that is that I am clothed in Christ.  The last thing I want to be doing in my short time in this life is to "just be".

But, if I am a secular humanist, that is exactly what I would want, for there is nothing else.  All reference to all I know is located in the gray matter that evolved between my ears, and so that would be the center of my universe.  Just being, therefore, would be paramount among my concerns.

This is why we should consider that all such articles as the one examined here, and there are many, are not written in a vacuum.  There is always the zeitgeist, or the spirit of the age, that this sort of thing aligns itself with.  We live in an age of lawlessness.  For the most part the Western Church has rejected God's law and is now participating in lawlessness.  It is paralyzed to deal with a rotting culture because without law there is no sin, and without sin there is no need for salvation, and if there is no need for salvation Jesus becomes more of a tattooed environmentalist, or a social worker or some such thing, than the savior of the world.  Church leaders find it increasingly difficult to confront the age due to the fact that they have hamstrung themselves.  They have rejected God's law at the worst, or they are uncomfortable with it because of the controversy that the spirit of the age places against it.  No longer does the Western Church preach "Repent for the Kingdom of God is near" as Jesus did, but rather it preaches "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life".  The article of note here speaks not to, or of, God's salvation but of the secular humanist zeitgeist that blankets the land.  The secular humanist, while he might reject the notion of "repent or you too will perish" will have no problem with "...just BE. Just BE! Just BE. What absolute FREEDOM!"  Yes, it is safe to say that the secular humanist can make peace with this statement and his humanism; and just so long as the Jesus is as hip with freedom and wealth redistribution as he is, he might even be able to adopt as a "personal truth" the He-died-and-was-raised part too.   

No wonder the West is rotting with skyrocketing illegitimacy rates, abortion, teen pregnancies, and suicides.  And no wonder there is a mass exodus of the youth as soon as they can, from the faith, along with imploding birth rates, unfathomable government debt, apostate preachers and churches preaching the LGBT gospel, and basic lawlessness.  With Christendom as a whole being unable to discern the Satanic lies in this article so aptly intertwined with truth, it is no wonder.  This is very discouraging for me.  Very discouraging indeed.

Yet I know that these things must happen for it is written:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  ( 2 Tim 3:1-8)
In Conclusion

Jesus tells us to do two things that are of utmost importance.  He tells us first to choose the narrow gate.  That is the gate through which we leave the kingdom of the air, its thought processes, and its zeitgeist.  Second He tells us to walk along the narrow path.  This path is a different path than the one taken by the masses.  Walking down this path we will be walking along a very different way than everyone else, and by doing so we will look different than the path filled with the condemned by God, for we will be being conformed to the image of God's son, and we will not be "just being".  We will be being made into a spotless bride, free from wrinkle and blemish.  And I, for one, think that is much better than "just being" in a rotting and sinful world that hates Jehovah, and His Son, with all its might.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Language Lives, It's The Communication That Is Dying

In order for communication to happen the ideas which a speaker has attached to the words he's using ought to be the same as those attached by the hearer lest they think they're communicating when in actuality they're not.  And since communication is a key element for a functional civilized society, it only follows that the lack of it would mean it's lets functional and civilized.

I have discovered that there are quite a few words that have a habit of transforming between mouth and ear; so many in fact that it has become obvious that I live in a culture suffering from a language problem that may perhaps eventually rival the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel.

The point of this post is not to make the case myself that the West is suffering in communicating ideas, but rather to point out that there are others much smarter than myself who have been claiming the same thing for some time.  Below are some excerpts from some well-known writers who have gotten the same sense of things.

The first comes from the book,  "The Road To Serfdom" written by F. A. Hayek. Having lived through a society that had descended into Nazism once, he noted that the same things appeared to him to be happening again.  This fact helps to make his observations a little more compelling I believe.  He makes the following point in his introduction:
... [H]istory never quite repeats itself, and just because no development is inevitable, we can in measure learn from the past to avoid repetition of the same process. One need not be a prophet to be aware of impending dangers. 'And accidental combination of experience and interest will often reveal events to one man under aspects which few yet see. The following pages are the product of an experience as near as possible to twice living though the same period... While this is an experience one is not likely to gain in one country, it may in certain circumstances be acquired by living in turn for long periods in different countries. ...Thus, by moving from one country to another, one may sometimes twice watch similar phases of intellectual development. The senses have then become peculiarly acute. When one hears for a second time opinions expressed or measures advocated which one has first met twenty or twenty-five years ago they assume a new meaning as symptoms of a definite trend. It is necessary now to state the unpalatable truth that it is Germany whose fate we are in some danger of repeating.
He also had this to say on Page 174:
The people are made to transfer their allegiance from the old gods to the new under the pretense that the new gods really are what their sound instinct had always told them but what before they had only dimly seen. And most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning.
And continuing on page 175:

If one has not one’s self experienced this process, it is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of this change of the meaning of words, the confusion which it causes, and the barriers to any rational discussion which it creates. It has to be seen to be understood how, if one of two brothers embraces the new faith, after a short while he appears to speak a different language which makes any real communication between them impossible. And the confusion becomes worse because this change of meaning of the words describing political ideals is not a single event but a continuous process, a technique employed consciously or unconsciously to direct the people. Gradually, as this process continues, the whole language becomes despoiled, and words become empty shells deprived of any definite meaning, as capable of denoting one thing as its opposite and used solely for the emotional association which still adhere to them.
From Gresham Machen, we get this insight as early as 1925 in "What Is Faith":
"It makes very little difference how much or how little of the creeds of the Church the Modernist preacher affirms... He might affirm every jot and tittle of the Westminster Confession, for example, and yet be separated by a great gulf from the Reformed Faith. It is not that part is denied and the rest affirmed; but all is denied, because all is affirmed merely as useful or symbolic and not as true."
Later in the mid-twentieth century, we see Francis Schaeffer complaining of virtually the same thing. In his book "Escape From Reason"  he points out that the parental communication being used to pass the Gospel along to the next generation is being retranslated by the "thought forms" that had been established by popular culture, media and the institutions of education:
"The reason we often cannot speak to our children, let alone other people's, is because we have never taken time to understand how different their thought-forms are from ours. Through Reading and education and the whole modern cultural bombardment of mass media, even today's middle-class children are becoming thoroughly twentieth-century in outlook. In crucial areas many Christian parents, ministers and teachers are as out of touch with many of the children of the church, and the majority of those outside, as though they were speaking a foreign language.
So what is said in this book is not merely a matter of intellectual debate. It is not of interest only to academics. It is utterly crucial for those of us who are serious about communicating the Christian gospel in the twentieth century"
And more recently yet we have John Piper who adds an interesting thought to this idea of language. He says that relativism allows one to conceal his heresies by confused language. He has this to say on page 109 of "Don't Waste Your Life:

One of the most tragic effects of relativism is the effect it has on language. In a culture where truth is esteemed as something objective and external and valuable, language holds the honorable place of expressing and transmitting that precious cargo of truth. In fact, a person's use of language is assessed on the basis of whether it corresponds to the truth of the reality the expresses.

But when objective truth vanishes in the fog of relativism, the role of language changes. dramatically. It's no longer a humble servant for carrying precious truth. Now it throws off the yoke of servanthood and takes on a power of its own. It doesn't submit to objective, external reality; it creates its own reality. It no longer serves to display truth. Now it seeks to obtain the preferences of the speaker.

This gives rise to every manner of spin. The goal of language is no longer the communication of reality but the manipulation of reality. It non longer functions in the glorious capacity of affirming the embrace of truth, but now it functions in the devious capacity of concealing defection from the truth"
In the grand scope of history, I get the sense that this is a new thing, perhaps brought to us by the enlightenment.  The oldest excerpt is nearly a century old and yet I get no sense from today's average communicators of the Gospel, which would include pastors, but more importantly includes parents, that a problem even exists.  But even if there was an awareness that the ideas being communicated from the pulpit and by parents were being retranslated in mid-air, the solutions to this problem go much deeper than simply defining terms because the words used even to define other words are intertwined with deep-seated ideals, belief systems and worldviews.

My sense of this reality is keen. While on the one hand I am relieved to discover that my experience on this matter is not new, on the other hand, I find it increasingly difficult to have, not only civil discourse but discourse period. It's good enough that we come to the table I suppose, but overcoming the fact that occupying the same space does not equal living in the same world when it comes to the ideas transmitted by our language, seems to be an insurmountable challenge.  For an English speaker to learn French is something that can be achieved.  He has merely to learn new sounds for old meanings.  But learning new meanings for old sounds, and escaping the worldview with which the common language is intertwined in order to understand and communicate with another, is a much more difficult task.

Languages have died, to be sure.  But I'm not sure if a language has ever survived while the ideas that were conveyed by them died. Guttenberg may have done much to freeze words, but the printed word is powerless when it comes to freezing the meanings attached to them.  It is apparent to me, if at all possible, that we should become bilingual, as it were, as much as we're able to, so that we might continue to communicate the Gospel of peace to a world in desperate need of it, but more importantly yet, so that we might be able to communicate it to our own children. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Women Pastors And Galatians 3:28

This is not a post which makes a case for or against women pastors.  Not that I don't think scripture is clear on the matter, but I want to take a look at one favorite scripture used by some of my brethren who seem to be just as clear on the matter as I am, yet stand on the other side of the chasm.

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  NASU
My point here is not to make a case for what this verse does mean, but to make a case for what it can't mean.  If we are going to approach scripture, we must approach it with consistent methods of interpretation, or hermeneutics.  We can't, for example, look at one passage written in the first century and dismiss it as pertaining only to first century culture, then use another scripture that can be applied to the same subject, and written in the same century, to make our case that the former ought to be dismissed.  Here is a case in point:
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. (1 Cor 14:34-36 NASU)
On the one hand this passage is dismissed in our present day as a cultural issue of the first century.  OK, all well and good but we can't then look at another passage and interpret that passage as if it is timeless when applied to the same subject.  We must, it seems to me that logic would dictate, interpret these two passages in light of one another.  Either Paul was not making the case in Galatians 3:28, that he was wrong in 1st Corinthians, or, he was teaching two different and opposing truths in the same age.

There is a third choice that I can think of.  Paul could have been teaching one truth to one culture, Galatia, and another truth to another culture, Corinth.  But this choice is worse for this would imply that culture dictates the interpretation of scripture.  Western Culture, for example, has embraced homosexuality as righteous and good, and deems those who oppose it as wicked and evil.  If we were to buy into the "cultural-filter method of interpreting scripture, I must say, they would actually have a valid point.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Love And First Corinthians Chapter Thirteen

1st Corinthians 13 In Context

If one could point to an over arching theme in Paul's first letter to the Corinthian Church it would probably read something like, "Unity", or "Have No Division", a very popular expression these days.  Paul wastes no time getting to the point of his letter after his customary salutation.  In verse 10-12 he writes:
(10)"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you.  Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." 
Paul discusses a host of division-causing concerns in various places in this letter, among them are leader-worship, Intellectualism vs. anti-intellectualism, the Gospel,  worldliness vs maturity, acceptance of immorality, settling quarrels, legalism, foods sacrificed to idols, leadership, the sacraments, gender roles, spiritual gifts and future expectations and events for the believer.  Most, if not all, of the major divisions in Christianity can find their root in something on this list.  Now, while division is a topic worthy of discussion, let it suffice for this discussion for us to simply be aware that the "Love Chapter" is found in the context of a letter that is addressing this subject.

Chapter 13

In chapters 12, 13 and 14 Paul is addressing a specific issue, which is spiritual gifts.  It is noteworthy that chapter 13 is sandwiched between two other chapters that are addressing a singular topic. In chapter 12 we see content that is consistent with the overlying message of unity as it pertains to spiritual gifts:
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware... Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.  For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."
In verses 4 through 7 of chapter 13 Paul, in a sense, departs from the subject of "gifts" in order to discuss "love".  But in verse 8 he gets right back on course with "gifts" and continues through chapter 14.  So why does Paul insert his chapter on love, which is really only a few verses if you remove the verses that are dealing with "gifts",  here? The answer, I believe, is because spiritual gifts were causing division in the 1st century Corinthian Church just as they are causing division in the 21st century Church.

So, with all of this in mind, let's look at the first section of chapter 13 that addresses spiritual gifts without love:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give[ing] all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 
Paul is clearly telling the church here not to let gifts take precedence over love.  Let's face it, anyone can go into a church setting and speak indiscernible things.  In some settings these gifts will bring acceptance, in others it will bring rejection and division.  Here are a couple of things that ought to therefore be considered.

The first is a person's motive for speaking in tongues?  Is it pride?  Is it to provoke those who use scripture to reject the gifts in this day?  Is it to gain acceptance from those who see it as evidence that you have received (trumpet fanfare) a special blessing from God?  God only knows.  What we can know, and are in fact admonished to know in this scripture, is that the gift ought to be accompanied by the fruit of love inside and outside the church setting. If the fruit is not there it really doesn't matter how much or how loud anyone can mumble, in the same way it does not matter how much a person prophecies, or how much the person contributed to the New-Building Fund.

Second, there are those who reject the gifts as only available to the infant Church.  There are plenty of Christians who produce wonderful fruit who speak in tongues, yet they are rejected as heretics because they do not interpret scripture in the same way as the cessationist does.  A case in point is the recent Strange Fire conference organized by John MacArthur.  As for me I love John MacArthur, and I understand his complaint given some of the nonsense that has come out of the Charismatic community.  But Charismatics did not corner the market on nonsense.  We need look no further than the PCUSA , and other cessationists denominations, to see where worship of the intellect can lead.

But Paul doesn't leave us in the midst of "Christians" of every stripe gone bad.  He follows with a blanket treatise on what love looks like.  Keeping in mind that all scripture can have a general application, in the context of this chapter I believe the emphasis Paul is making is on internal relationships in the Body Of Christ concerning spiritual gifts.  So with "gifts" in mind let's take another look at the second section of chapter 13:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
In my experience with gifts these words speak volumes.  Unkindness, jealousy, bragging, arrogance, seeking one's own, all of these have I seen in connection with spiritual gifts.   But what about the cessationists?  To them gifts are provocative and there seems to be very little patience with those who believe they have received a special gift from God.

In addition there can be a tale-wagging-the-dog phenomenon that accompanies gifts.  If "speaking in tongues" means that a person has been baptized by the Holy Spirit, then that person has received a second blessing and is filled with the Spirit.  If this is true, (and I'm not ever going to contend that it isn't simply because scripture doesn't allow it) then that person might see himself as a notch higher than the one who has not received the second blessing. Furthermore, this person can also begin to proclaim special revelations that are validated by their gifts of tongues which, so the case is made is evidence of baptism by the Holy Spirit, and anyone who questions these revelations are dishonoring God.

This also sets up a tier system.  There are those who have received a gift, and then there those second tier Christian who have not.  And even if the person with a gift does not see himself as a first tier Christian, or intend to make the "second tier" person feel bad, the fact remains that those who believe that there is more could easily conclude that God is withholding something because they are failures.

The problem in Charismatic circles is the emphasis on the gift of tongues, which just so happens to be the easiest gift to fake, and it disregards other important passages in the three chapters, verses like:
 "Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." (1 Cor 12:27-28)
 Notice the "prominence" of tongues:  And there is also:
"...desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself..."  (1 Cor 14:1-4)
The reality however is that speaking in tongues does not a prove anything at all, not does scripture explicitly contend that it does.  I relay an experience from a friend who was once married to a woman who encouraged him to pray for and to seek the spiritual gifts.  She herself claimed to have received the gift of tongues and was encouraging her husband to be prayed for to receive this gift.  My friend was very open to this because he was not a stranger to scripture.  Ultimately however she eventually left him for a married man, and after that man had left his wife she moved on into a lesbian relationship.  Her "tongues" were a clanging cymbal and her actions were destructive and painful to many people.

There is much more that makes this same point.  Here is an excerpt from a pentecostal website that looks very good on its face:
The Word of God teaches us that the Holy Ghost baptism is the "earnest" (down payment) on our redemption. It is only a small beginning to the great changes that will occur when we are resurrected from this sinful world and taken to God's new sinless world. Stop letting the enemy defeat your faith. Let God arise in your life! Be all that you can be, In Jesus name! Paul continues yet, he goes on to the fruit of a changed life: righteousness, rejoicing with the truth, bearing all things, believing all things, enduring all things.  Then he caps the whole thing off with "Love never fails".
The only problem is that it comes from this website.  To save you the trouble of clicking over, here is what the header of that site informs the visitor:
", Out, Proud, On FIRE For The Lord!
'And it shall come to past that in the last days I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh'. Acts 2:17"
This site begs for the defining of terms like sin, righteousness, fruit and, most of all, love.  If scripture is so malleable that it can be reshaped into anything we fancy to suit our times, then words like sin and love become hopelessly lost beyond the present moment and emotion, as does this great chapter in 1st Corinthians.  But if the person saying things like this has been baptised by the Holy Spirit, and he speaks in tongues as evidence of that baptism, who can question him?  The answer, of course, is that scripture can, and in fact it does.  But as it does, division ensues... and that is a good thing for God is the ultimate divider, and he will one day divide between the sheeps and the goats.

Still, chapter 13 is all about getting beyond division through the application of love.  However to do this the word "love" must be defined in timeless terms in a time that prefers unity through superficiality over sound doctrine.  That said,  "getting beyond division" deserves explanation, an explanation that I think Paul gives in this chapter.  Paul never commands that all manner of unrighteousness is to be embraced in the name of "unity" based on a mistaken or purposeful misunderstanding of words. Nowhere in this chapter are we called to remain shallow and ignorant regarding doctrine, or our times, nor to wink at sins, for the sake of unity.  And this applies to culturally acceptable sins in a world that shows nothing but contempt for a Church that does not buy into its empty secular humanist philosophies.  Paul is clear.  Love does not "rejoice in unrighteousness" but rather it rejoices in  the very thing the guiding philosophies of this age rejects: "the truth"

We are living in a modern-day Babel when it comes to our language.  The meanings attached to a speaker's words can be completely different than the meaning attached to the same word by the hearer.  Paul addresses this "communication gap" in chapter 13 as it pertains to the Gifts specifically, but as it pertains to love in general.  But in order to not make Paul say something he is not saying at all, many of the words he uses have been redefined, and as such deserve specific definitions based on other scriptures as opposed to finger-in-the-cultural-winds "theologians".

Paul is making the case that we are unified through love as different parts of one Body with Jesus as the head.  1st Corinthians 13 is a popular chapter in this age because it is emotionally uplifting.  But these emotions should not impair our ability to get to the truth it holds, truths that may not be all that emotionally uplifting.  One of the greatest of these truths is the nature of Jesus Christ, since his headship is key to understanding this passage.  If we miss this one truth by focusing in on a favorite passages like "Jesus dined with sinners", while ignoring his command to repent, it is very possible to turn Jesus into just another secular-humanist, material-obsessed liberal who cares nothing for souls and the destruction wrought on souls by sin, and who hates those who do.  But Jesus did care.  His message was a message of repentance.  If we miss this we will be confused by our times, and rather than functioning in a body unified in the life of Christ through love, we will end up in a body unified in whitewashed death whose love has grown ice cold.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Shameless Post Modernism

Man wants so badly to make up his own morality but it puts him in such a quandary.  On the one hand, if he agrees that there are moral absolutes, then not only must he agree that there is an establisher of those absolutes who is above him, he must also consent that he is subject and accountable to the one who established them.  Rathering to hold to his own made-up whims, the idea of being accountable to a creator must be reject outright.

So, with the baggage of this quandary resting on his back, the modern man sets off endlessly to making the case that his moral whims are the right moral whims and those who disagree with his are not. However, no matter what he says about morality in his brave new world, he contradicts himself as he says it, and sadly his life reflects that contradiction .

The book "Morality For Humans" is a recent example of man's quest to have morality while not having morality.  Johnson assures us that moral absolutes are a sin against science, and I would suppose that he is absolutely sure about that, at least sure enough to write a book about it.

Because we are reaping so much fruit from this kind of thinking we might get the idea that it's new.  But it is not.  We must remember that half truths taught one generation become the whole truths of the next.  Generation after generation of this, and, well, eventually a whirlwind of lies and confusion is harvested.  C K Chesterton saw the early fruit of humanism among elitist over a hundred years ago, and he lays them out like only he could in "Orthodoxy":

For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women , and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting , where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines . In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything. 

As I learned of the last shooting I couldn't help but to wonder what old Dr. Mark Johnson would have to say to those of us who insist that one who kills women because they won't have sex with him, along with the men with whom they would, is absolutely wrong.  I can only guess that he would accuse me of sinning against his moral whims.  But then again, unless he is morally retarded, which is not beyond question, he would not say as much.

* Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (2012-05-17). Orthodoxy (pp. 33-34).  . Kindle Edition.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Are Christians Called To Love Homosexuals?

To answer the title in a word, no. But don't go letting your head explode on me just yet. Keep reading please because I have two things to say to qualify that answer.

1. Nowhere in scripture are we called to "love the homosexual".  What we are called to do is to love our fellow sinners. To say that we are called to love the homosexual does two things. First, it gives a particular sin a feeling of specialness.   The special attention this sin receives is the result of bleed-over from our culture into Christianity.  Second, it allows the sinner to adopt his sin as an identity. What man, given the definition of adultery that Jesus gave, is not an adulterer? I'd say the vast majority are, given the low bar set by Jesus for becoming one. But I've yet to see anyone proclaiming, or demanding, that Christians ought to love the adulterer and stop judging him and to be more accepting of his special sin.

2. The second is more important. The command in scripture to "love" our fellow man, that is those who persecute us, those who are enemies of God, and a host of other sinners, ought to have us examining the verb "love". Scripture is not silent on this matter, but let me first say that nowhere does scripture confuse the word love with acceptance. The common mantra of our day is that Jesus accepts the sinner wherever he is. I don't think that's true. Jesus loves the sinner wherever he is, but he rejects his sin. For example, let's look at an occasion that does not carry the cultural baggage of the modernday homosexual; the rich young ruler.  Jesus did not accept this young man's sin of idolatry, yet the scriptures tell us "...Jesus felt a love for him... ". (Mk 10:21)

The modern Church is constantly admonishing us to love like Jesus loved.  But I can't help but to think that there is a difference between what we're being admonished to do and what scripture teaches us to do. From the beginning to the end of Jesus' ministry his sermons can be summed up by "repent for the Kingdom of God is near".  He did not preach "accept sins that are popular in your day".

To be sure there is a caricature of Christians who are pointing their fingers in angry self-righteous indignation and demanding repentance.  While I'm sure there are some who do this--and we are supposed to love them too by the way--this does not mean that we are to be more accepting of a popular sin in order to mitigate that caricature.  That would be folly.

In short, we are not to confuse love with acceptance.  While it is certainly possible to love without accepting there is a very real danger in our present age of unwittingly not loving while accepting.

So, are we to love the homosexual?  No, we are to love the sinner, every sinner, enough to call him to repentance in a compassionate and loving way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How Does One Reconcile The Love Of God And Hell?

The modern day Christian lives in a dilemma as he contemplates his religion and his culture.  The dilemma is between having an internally consistent worldview and serving a God who, through the eyes of man and culture, appears to be a monster.  The question in the title of this post highlights at least part of this dilemma, and it demands an answer!

To answer requires a starting point.  So we should start by ever distinguishing between cultural assertions and biblical truth.  The culture asserts that, as far as the "self" is concerned, it is sovereign. That is, the average individual we meet will reject the existence of an objective basis for  right and wrong. Just as in the days of the Judges, in which "every man did what was right in his own eyes", (Judg 17:6) right and wrong is currently said to be dredged up from between the ears of each individual.  In a culture that has embraced this view the individual finds himself floating on a sea of opinions based on personal feelings. In the modern mind, "That doesn't make me feel good" carries the same weight as "Thou shalt not..."; in fact, it carries more weight.  Unfortunately for the average individual, the mind adrift on this sea is easily blown this way and that by winds created by the rulers, the powers, the world forces of darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness.  (Eph 6:12)

So, for the average modern man, to be told that he is not a good person is a full frontal assault on his sensibilities.  Any God that would say such a thing, therefore, must be the figment of the imaginations of little monsters themselves.  Either that or God actually is a monster. For if the reference point for good and evil is the self, how can any "self" conclude that itself is wicked while using the same self as a basis for good and evil?  And if the self doesn't conclude that itself is wicked, how can it ever conclude that it is heaping up for that same self the wrath of God, as the Bible plainly says it is?  And if it can't conclude that it's in dire eternal straits, how can it ever realize that it is in desperate need of some eternal good news? The short answer is that it can't.

This current zeitgeist poses a problem for the contemporary Christian because the spirit of this age is averse to the eternal truths of scripture which asserts in no uncertain terms that man is wicked to the core, dead in his sins, unable to do anything to remedy that fact, is in desperate need of salvation from that predicament, and without which he will pay an eternal price. That is the Biblical view of man.  And needless to say, man doesn't like it; not then, not now, and not ever.

But it doesn't end there.  The Biblical view of God is that He is perfect in every way, that He is holy and righteous, and also that he is just. Being just, therefore, necessitates that He is a God of wrath against all injustice who sees all men as deserving of eternal damnation; yes, every last one, male and female.  These words of Jesus put it best:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already... (John 3:17-18)

So this puts the modern Western Christian in a difficult place.  He is afraid that if he presents the truth about God and man his religion will be rejected.  And he is right in thinking that, but he would be wrong in moderating the truths in his message.

But this is what has happened.  Christianity began moderating its message early in the last century by teaching half truths about the love of God. The wrath of God was increasingly ignored because it was unpalatable, and as went the wrath of God, so went the fear of God, and the beauty of grace.  I will expound on this later, but the point I want to make now is that these half truths were not presented to a static world.  Generations are ever being born and passing away.  A half truth in one generation will become the whole in the next. It will have the same cumulative effect on the culture as drinking saltwater has on the human body.  The more half truths we imbibe, the more we need. In the end, unless we get pure water, death is certain.  And we are observing this very thing all around. We are living our lives in a dying culture that reaches out in vain for pure water; some sort of truth to which it may cling.

These half-truths ushered in the internally inconsistent Christian worldviews that are best summed up by the expression that God loves everyone unconditionally.  I was born in the 1960's, back when people still talked about the Bible a little bit, and I knew that Jesus had quite a lot to say about lakes of fire and eternal torment.  I rejected the notion of unconditional love because I knew that the person who was preaching that message either worshiped a different God than his Bible proclaimed or he was ignorant of what his Bible said.  In either case, the message of unconditional love was equally pathetic and uncompelling to me with the knowledge that the Bible painted a different story, one in which an eternal fate of agony hung in the balance.

This God-loves-everyone-unconditionally message eventually became the mainstream of Christian thought and it has gutted the western church of sound doctrine.  If Christianity either rejects, ignores, hides or is ashamed of a basic foundational component of its own religion involving man's condition and certain attributes of God that it sees as offensive, or "unloving" what's left?

When the truth about man and God are ignored or downplayed, then good and evil themselves transition from truths that are objective to truths that are subjective. The self is returned to the throne as judge over what is to be considered good and evil. The individual then becomes the basis from which all things are measured with the assurance that no matter what that basis is that God loves him unconditionally. Feelings are king. This is evidenced in the experience and self-oriented worship so prevalent in this time. Service and mercy-oriented works to "help the poor" are exchanged for the Gospel.  "Grace" covered licentiousness, especially when it comes to libertine freedoms, are increasingly the norm. In addition, we see wholesale heresy with entire denominations becoming apostate. Around every corner, there arises another Christian pop-star who announces his or her coming out of the closet as an active homosexual, or by publicly embracing what scripture clearly teaches is wrong... all under the umbrella of "God loves everybody unconditionally".  Unitarianism and Universalism are on the rise. Here is a statement made by a pastor on the subject of "Chrislam", which is a combination of Islam and Christianity. It is typical of all sorts of misguided theology that finds God's unconditional love as it's root:

"But let's make sure that we view God through the eyes of Jesus, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beauty of a Savior, the loving open inclusive arms of a loving God."  (1)

We can be sure that whether Christianity is being synchronized with the world or other religions, the root of the problem is tapped into the same soil.

This brings us back to the question asked in the title. How does one reconcile the love of God and Hell?  What is the whole truth?  When we elevate man to a state of goodness, only with a few flaws; when we make goodness dependent on man's internal compass, when we see God's love as something that we deserve, the true love of God is diminished.  It's one thing to love someone who we think deserves to be loved.  But that love is not the same as loving someone who hates you and wants you dead.  But that is the picture the Bible paints of man, who is, in his natural state, at war with God.  So if God loves, even one of us, he is first loving someone who hates Him.  On the same token, when we are ashamed of a God who would send people to eternal torment--when we reject the wrath of God against all unrighteousness and hide the fact that the just, right, and holy thing for God to do is to send all men to Hell, we are judging God according to our own standards, and at the same time obscuring the real love of God found in the cross, for it'sIt is in the contrast of the total depravity of man and the holiness of God that God's love truly shines for the amazing thing that it is.  And to the extent that we miss that contrast in its stark reality, the true love of God is missed; the true love that a holy God would demonstrate to depraved man by sending his sinless Son to pay the price for their sins, even though not one deserved that sacrifice.  This is the condition that makes God's love conditional.  

But this raises an often missed question. What exactly can we know about the love of God from the scriptures? With such an emphasis as we see in the present age on God's unconditional love for each and every one of us, you'd think that the Bible would be filled with references to His love for us. But I'm afraid that that's not the case. The word love is used quite often. But it might surprise some to realize that the vast majority of those references are found in God's commands for us to love Him, and to love others.  In the Old Testament His love is not extended to every human being but rather is expressed to his chosen people, Israel. In the New Testament we are told several times that God loves us, but take notice, with one exception, it is always mentioned in the context of the cross:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 
Rom 5:4-9 ...and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 
Rom 8:33-36  Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 
 2 Cor 5:14-15  For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 
Eph 2:4-5 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him,
Eph 5:2  ...just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God ...
Eph 5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, ...
Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior
1 John 4:9-11  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins
The list above is not an exhaustive list of scripture telling us that God loves us, but I do believe it almost is.  God does not love us unconditionally, at least not in the way modern man understands "conditionally". Let me show why I say this:
John 14:21-22 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." 
1 John 2:3-5  By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.
1 John 5:3-4  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 
1 John 2:29-3:1  If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.  See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.
So this brings us back to a worldly question.  If I am saved by grace, why is God's love conditional?  Therein we find the answer to the question of how the love of God is reconciled with Hell.  God's love is conditional in the sense that we are dead in our trespasses, yet he still saves some.  There was nothing the dead could do as a condition to bring that about.  But after being saved, our sanctifying process begins and we begin to grow into Christ-likeness.  In the same way that birds are not birds on the condition that they can fly but rather birds fly because they are birds, Christians don't obey God's commands as a condition of salvation, they obey His commands because they are Christians.  Therefore when we disobey God's commands, although we are heartsick, we are still in his love.  But as we disobey His commands, we realize even more the great love He has for us because we see who we are, and what a great salvation it was that saved us, and we also realize God's holiness, and what a great work of love He accomplished on the cross.

But these are strange words in the ears of the modern Christian.  There is no law, and with no law, there can be no lawlessness to avoid.  We are saved by grace and can do anything we want except "judge" anything as unrighteous.  This complete disconnect from objective truth, which is that man has fallen short of the glory of God and that God's mercy, which was shown when He sent His Son to die for sinners, has set the vast majority of the western church adrift on a sea of opinions.  It should be no surprise then that Husbands are abandoning their families to chase after temporal dreams.  Why not?  He's not under any law and we're told that God does love him unconditionally because he is after all made in His image, and to call his sin sin would be judgemental and unloving.  Besides, God doesn't hate him, no, he loves him, it's his sin that God hates.  The husband can sow to the flesh in this world and reap a harvest of heavenly bliss in the next.  The same goes for wives abandoning their families, and for the murderer of children in the womb, and every other sin that this culture embraces.  God loves everybody and we can do as we damn well please, thank you very much. And, we can turn Christianity into Christlam because God is "inclusive" and loves diversity because diversity is love... or so we're supposed to believe. But it's not true.

When our thinking starts with man and works its way to God, we are doomed to deception. We must instead start with God and work our way to man if we're to walk in the light. If we start with man we must contort God to fit into man's image. We must reinterpret God's word to conform to our true basis for truth, man. But if we start with God, and we see or read things in life and the scriptures that make us uncomfortable, we can then see the places in which we have work to do in conforming our own thinking to God's Word. Once we've done that; once we've lowered ourselves, and God is on the throne of our minds and hearts, we can more easily understand the things that the natural man cannot.  But best of all, it gives a true sense of the way things really are. It helps us to be a true light in a truly dark world, and it gives us confidence to say things, and live in a way that makes us stand out in a crowd and heard above the noise.

My nation is dying of malnutrition.  But His Church is not. My nation is starving to death for lack of truth. But His Church is not.  This nation is under God's judgement, and all that we are watching take place that makes the Church sick is His hand administering that judgement.  But His Body will stand strong. It is not in any danger of disappearing or being lost because its existence is not dependant on man.  We now live in a nation that helps a child pretend to be the opposite sex while ridiculing those who call such things child abuse. At the same time, there is an abundance of churches, preaching God's love, even for the child abuser. We live in a nation in which not only can a man "marry" another man, but such things are taught in public schools as good and righteous. But by the numbers, Christianity abounds.

It's well known among addicts that to fix a problem there must be an understanding that there is a problem. That there is a problem is not in question. For some, the problem is that not enough people understand that God loves them. I think that's a misdiagnosis. I think the real problem is that most are convinced that God does love them, just as they are. And so they have asked a question that modern evangelicalism can't seem to answer, which is, why change?