What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen

3167352760_3d855afb16_zAs the debacle of Planned Parenthood’s practice continues to be revealed to our nation I am left with fewer words each time. I have plenty to say – but in reality, I believe images and videos to be more powerful than what I can write in this blog post.

For Christians, this should strengthen our resolve to support life. For those who don the name of “Christian” and support abortion – you cannot support two conflicting agendas. Scripture is very clear and so is the practice of abortion. The two value systems are diametrically opposed; therefore, you cannot support both. You will either uphold with conviction the truth of God – or – you will side with those whom hate Him. I believe you’ve already made that choice.

It should also provide an in depth commentary for us on the reality of the doctrines of sin. The only reason we should be surprised at this whole thing is simply due to naivety on the practices of this company (which is no longer the case for the whole of the world) and a lack of depth in your understanding of sin. Sin truly devastates and maligns all things good. Everything.

There is not one person, save the blind and deaf, mentally handicapped, or child, who is excusable in not knowing what has taken place in abortive practices since Roe V. Wade. It is everywhere. Planned Parenthood cannot unspin what is being shown. Corporations are denouncing support swiftly. Public outcry is only growing, even against hordes saying it is malarkey.

We can debate whether the Center for Medical Progress is using deceptive means and editorial hijinks for the grand unveiling of this sin. However, this isn’t the issue. Not in the least. The root issue is not even the killing of the unborn. It is a hatred for God. Naturally, hating the image-giver distorts and causes you to hate the image-bearer.

In all things, the Giver and Sustainer of life makes known the path of redemption through Jesus Christ. He makes known through creation His indelible image – especially through these little ones. He makes this known even in your isolation, for you bear the image of your Creator. Even the blind and deaf cannot escape this reality.

Wherever you stand, you cannot un-see what has been seen. Even if you ignore what is being unraveled before the world, you will not stand in the Day of Judgment to plead your case.

Yet if you would but humble yourselves, turn from your sins, and believe upon the Christ who spilled His blood at Calvary, you will stand. You will stand on the basis of His merit.

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Life Update: Seminary is Here

So incredibly thankful to the Lord today. I am not officially starting seminary until this upcoming Tuesday, but I received an email today allowing access to one of my first classes. Now some may see this as a bit dorky, and I am completely fine with that (as it rightfully is a bit dorky to get so worked up over being able to access classwork sooner than needed).

For me, this brings me tears of joy and gratefulness. I was a man who flunked out of college because I decided to get high and deal drugs to sustain my habit and other expenses. I lost jobs, family, and friends because of the life I lived. I saw things that I can never be unseen in a house of debauchery – a house that I propagated and sustained in that debauchery. At some point the Lord was gracious to open my eyes and bring me from death to life in Christ.

He planted the desire to go back to school, for an English degree; I made it a year in that program before He changed my desire to be a man who studied a greater word than any human author. I just graduated this last Spring at MBI, having raised my GPA back from .35% to 2.9% to finish out my bachelor’s.

I am overwhelmed with the Lord’s kindness as I start this new journey in seminary – not simply because I get to go to school now with a desire to learn, nor because I deserve to be in school (or even because I’m done with “gen eds”), but because the Lord saw fit to plant the calling in me to pastor. Now I know not if that is within the Lord’s will for me – but it is my greatest desire and I have never had anything consume me with such passion as this.

I love God’s Word and I wish to impart that same love to others. So what particularly am I thankful for? The fact that the Lord is gracious in allowing me to have the chance at dying all over again. This time though, I have the opportunity to die to self, whereas before, I was dead in sin.

This time through, I have an opportunity to give it everything I have. If I am ever to be fit for use for the pastorate, there is undeniably much in me that needs to change; that I might become less so Christ is made much of.

I was asked just a few short days ago, “Would you like a church full of people just like you? Your shortcomings and your strengths?”

My honest answer: no.

Pray with me as I make this journey to become a man worthy of the calling placed on me. It is so easy to do this all for vain glory. Give praise with me that I am able to be afforded this opportunity and that whatever may come, I just perform honorably, diligently, and with humble trepidation in knowing that what I am setting out to do incurs greater judgment upon me. Not many should become teachers.

I know time will pass quick enough; I know I have a strong enough desire to see it to the end (I’m stubbornly decisive and unflinching in my resolve when I earnestly believe something is good, worthy, and honorable to God in my pursuit); pray that I would continue to see this opportunity as I do now: an incredible blessing given to a man who once spat in the face of God, never tried at anything, believed everything should be handed on a silver platter, and was just content in his sin.

May I never make light of that blessing – and may I be wholly mastered by the text as I apply myself wholly to the study and application of it.

Richard Dawkins on Abortion

I’m quite glad that Richard Dawkins is refreshingly honest in issues of abortion, pedophilia, and rape. I find this sort of honestly admirable for one simple reason: it doesn’t cloak itself in nobility. Instead, it is cold, calculated logic for him to simply express one extremely common reason why women abort (among many others). While I disagree completely with that logic, I appreciate it simply because it displays the logical outcome of a man who views morality in a completely twisted manner.

In reading replies to his initial Tweets, you see only three different outcomes:

  1. His logic is sound. Aborting Down syndrome fetuses is kind, charitable, and morally correct. The person with Down syndrome simply suffers, having little quality of life, and will be a burden to those whom have to continuously cater to a perpetual child.
  2. Richard Dawkins is correct in his logic, however, he should have used a more neutral term than “immoral” in regard to those whom decide to raise a child with Down syndrome. The reason being, it is inherently their choice to raise a child – yet it would also be perfectly acceptable to terminate the pregnancy based on the fetus’ poor mental and physical health.
  3. Richard Dawkins is completely incorrect in his logic and is trying to play God. A fetus is life, life is precious, and thus, whatever quality of life one is given is not contingent upon the value of that life.

When looking at these things, we must understand the framework Dawkins operates under. I am not specifically speaking of the framework of his atheism, though that is inseparable from how he formulates his worldview. I am speaking of identifying his terminology and his definitions of those terms.

  • Fetus/it: Dawkins will use the term fetus over and again. It will not be referred to “life,” though it is living. The more impersonal you can make it (even abandoning impersonal pronouns, such as he/she – and using “it” instead) the better.
  • Non-essentialist: A non-essentialist believes that the substance (the properties that make something what it is, without which, it would not be that thing) does not imply virtue. Thus, it is then easy to say, biologically, a fetus is not human because humanity goes beyond a simple bundle of cells that will one day develop into the substance of a human being (i.e. logic, emotion, etc.).
  • Suffer: In the terms of an adult, low quality of life (specifically, what qualitatively substantiates a normal life style that is not inhibited by intellectual malady). In the terms of an unborn infant, will they be capable of reasoning in the womb that they are being destroyed? Though the infant may feel such pain, it is not cognitively responding to that pain except on the basis of bodily reaction. There is no emotional response, mental recognition, nor is there fear (beyond naturalistic primal fear).
  • Moral/immoral: subjective to the person’s desires (i.e. – not necessarily pertaining to social norms, but inherently built in societal structure and benefit of said society and individual).
  • Logic: devoid of emotional reasoning in any sense. What this specifically means is that it represents factual basis without an appeal to rational emotion. This is used in his integration of the sciences within what he would deem a philosophical question, such as abortion rights.

This is obviously not a treatment on the fullness of Dawkins’ vocabulary and his presupposed definitions – but it is helpful to understand nonetheless. On the basis of using these terms, he neatly defines his parameters and contains the argument where he desires it would go. Thus, any person in disagreement is disqualified as a rational thinker, as they substantiate their claims with emotive responses rather than based off of what is factually represented and naturally observed or tested.

He further claims that only in “intellectual dishonesty” can one substantiate claims against him. The sciences and philosophy of applied sciences will undoubtedly back him up. Essentially, what proponents of this worldview are saying is that you are stupid for believing otherwise due to an appeal to sources, which cannot be empirically tested or validated. This causes problematic reasoning in that we cannot ascertain what is morally acceptable beyond what develops consensus in subjection to each individual. Thus, each man does what is right in his own eyes – but as a collective sect.

Though there are societal constraints in defining moral evil (we see this in respect to laws governing the states) – we cannot possibly define moral evil in the basis where there is no law. Thus, it is problematic for a man like Dawkins to say that cannibalism in a third world tribe is truly evil, though it would be considered morally evil within his own society. This can be qualified by saying, “if you think that this is an endorsement of cannibalism, go away and learn how to think.”

This appeals to autonomous, societal rule, yet simultaneously, self-rule for the individual; freedom to make whatever choices they desire, be it through sexual expression, the governed right to abort, euthanasia, tribal practices, etc. All of these imply a personal, subjective value so long as they do not become matters of legality – yet the issue at hand is in regard to disagreeing with Dawkins. Though he “would never dream of imposing his views on anyone,” it is illogical and immoral to make the choice of keeping an unborn child who was screened positively for Downs. His apology is not one of sincerity in offending a position, but of one where he is seen as totalitarian.

So why do I find anything to appreciate out of all of this? I find Dawkins to be much more candid than most others who hold the same conviction. I find these convictions to be horribly atrocious – but he doesn’t cloak it with feigned dignity. He is ignoble, a downright fool, contradicts his own rules of logic, and a hater of God and His people – yet he is completely open in expression, even if he has to qualify his statements.

He is willing to go where his argument takes him. Most others simply will not because they either don’t have the fortitude or the foresight to see where it fully leads. For these likes, they simply bow down to the intellectual giants of their field and feign nobility, walking around in blissful ignorance to the true conclusion of their belief system.

Everyone is a worshiper; the difference simply comes in what they worship.

There is Hope in Relativism

If there is one thing that postmodernism has done, it has substantively removed any firm grasp on logical discourse. Now, one who is a proponent of relativism would argue just the opposite – postmodernism has assuaged their desire to be firm on any one thing except relativism. No one source can be credible, save the test of one’s own self-idealized version of the truth. While there are varied exceptions to this rule, such as an appeal to what can be observed, it is through the lens of observation that they build a presupposition to truth.

Inherent to this is the rather presumptuous and contradictory notion that an appeal to authority is not permissible. In example: if I were to argue that the bible holds authority over every man, regardless of his disposition to it; that would be considered ridiculous. However, it is fully allowable for them to appeal to the authority of self to say that scripture does not hold authority over them. If they do appeal to authority outside of themselves, it is to another man who holds the exact same position.

This allows for arguments to be safely contained and never progress. When this is challenged, the argument stops immediately for one important reason: there was never intent to dialogue about these issues.

Essentially, the object behind this conversation was to proselytize and convince the believer that the scriptures are flawed, if there is a god – it is certainly not the Judeo-Christian God, belief in anything outside of what is observed is folly, and etc. Whatever the primary agenda is of the one interacting, it will be the focus of the conversation. They will lead the discussion, expect the one whom they are speaking with to adhere to their own principles of discernment, and will rarely engage with what is actually presented other than to show that their way of thinking is supreme.

All men are worshippers – it is simply the object of their affection in worship that differs. The only thing one has to do in order to discern the object of their affection is to listen long enough. What is treasured will be revealed through their lips. In this case, what they worship is not a graven image – but a reflected one. They worship themselves.

So why do we press on knowing all of this? For the Christian, what is even the purpose of sharing the gospel if this is the agenda? Simply put, we move forward in obedience to the scriptures in order to marvel in a supremely sovereign Lord who has the ability to raise the dead. No amount of evidence you provide is going to be sufficient; no amount of fine rhetoric or charm you exhibit; no amount of exposing contradicting agendas in their own beliefs.

It is God who effectually wills for one to be saved – conveniently through the faithful proclamation of the word and the incredible ministry of His Spirit. This is where my Arminian friends misconceive the ministry of the Spirit upon the unregenerate. Even the term unregenerate presupposes that an outside force must operate in order for regeneration to take place. It is the gospel that saves, leaving no room for man to boast – none.

We move forward with the understanding that only the bible is the basis for rational thought; it is divine revelation and exposes flaws in worldviews. Apart from presuppositions, no one can make sense of any human experience, thus, there cannot be neutral assumptions from which one reasons as a non-Christian. In other words, the Bible formulates how we view natural evidences and it is only through the presupposition of the true God existing that one can hold a common basis of Christian Apologetics.

For the unbeliever, the observed world formulates how they view natural evidences and it is only through that lens that they are able to have common revelation extended to them. What this means is that though nature is sufficient enough to show the existence of God in the supremacy of His creation, it is only sufficient enough to condemn. It is the gospel proclaimed that saves.

There is hope in relativism – yet only in that the gospel can penetrate putrid, rotting hearts and expose the need for a Savior. Not only this, but the totality of the faith exposes the need for repentance and submission to this same Savior. The hope in relativism is not rooted in man’s ability to conquer it with wit; the hope is rooted in an active God who delights in bringing His sheep home, making the wisdom of this world into foolishness through a message that is folly to those whom are perishing.

Dynamic Women of the Bible

dynamic-women-of-the-bible-picI set out to read Ruth A. Tucker’s Dynamic Women of the Bible with the hopes of being able to find a decent resource to encourage women with. I had no idea of whom Ruth Tucker was until I read this book. That will be important later. For now, let’s examine this book under it’s own merit.

Within the first chapter, it was readily apparent that much of what this book was going to offer was pure, idle speculation on the nature of the women of the Bible. Interestingly enough, the authors who penned the scriptures were not moved by the Spirit to write much about many of these women. Truthfully, there is a ridiculous amount left open for speculation. However, I do not find such speculation profitable for the reader or the maturation of their faith.

The really interesting thing that I found was that through the midst of this, Tucker acknowledges that the point of the scriptures was not to highlight these women. Not necessarily, anyhow. The primary focus of the scriptures is redemptive history through the patriarchal lineage tracing to Christ, what His specific ministry was here on earth (yet also now, being seated at the right hand of the Father, and His eschatological purpose), and what implications this redemptive history has for those who confess Christ as Savior and Lord.

While these narratives are given in scripture, Tucker admits to being curious as to what their attitudes were. Surely, they were real women, as she writes. However, this is seemingly where Ruth Tucker lands: some strange middle ground where she asks a ton of questions that the reader is left to postulate upon.

The chapters move from character to character, speculating large chunks of narrative, such as, “There have been so many monthly periods she cannot begin to count them. Cramps and PMS sometimes lasting for days. And what a mess! No corner drugstore where she could stock up on tampons and sanitary napkins or buy a bottle of Midol. If she were like most women, she would have begun ‘the change’ in her late forties or fifties, bleeding at times like a stuck pig. Then would come the near fainting spells and what could only be described as grand-mal hot flashes—never-ending menopause. How long has it been since she made love with Abraham? Years? She doesn’t keep track.”

Granted, I am a man, and beyond the biological aspects of menstrual cycles and menopause, I don’t get it. However, to speculate on this simply seems to be trying to relate much more to the story than we have. Did she have this in commonality with all women? Of course. Do we need to speculate on the heaviness of Sarah’s period, her menopause experience, or her sex life with Abraham? Not really. It does nothing to substantiate Sarah’s character nor does it add particular value to this discussion.

Tucker does move beyond menstruation in this chapter, but to more and more speculation in the midst of the legitimate Genesis narrative. She presents some of what the text says, and then elaborates with mere speculation.

Through what I did read in this book, I was overwhelmed by the vast majority of biblical gossip Tucker purported to make her points. I decided to give the book 150 pages (the halfway point) to see if it would get any better – I made it to page 65 and skimmed some other chapters remaining.

What I got out of it was that the Patriarchs are viewed too positively and that modern biblical scholars comment too negatively on the sins of these women; Priscilla wrote the book of Hebrews; Lot’s wife got a bad rap (Sapphira possibly, too); and a whole boatload of other hypotheticals.

I have mentioned this before, and I will do it again here: research the author for a minimum of one hour and see what you can dig up.

For what I found on Ruth Tucker in 15 min:

  • She is egalitarian.
  • She is a biblical feminist.
  • She has about 10 blogs devoted to slamming her previous employer (again, I don’t know everything that happened in this situation – but surely there is a more mature way to handle these things).
  • She has other blogs where she spends more time speculating and asking questions than she ever formulates biblical answer to.

My point is not to slam her in any way. My point is simply to show that she has developed a set of presuppositions by which she operates under as she approaches the scriptures. We all do this – however, some just do it in a poor, unbiblical way. What you read in their books will evidence this, always. It is far more valuable to read from authors who want to be mastered by what the scripture dictates. They may make mistakes in their hermeneutic, but it will not be altogether unprofitable.

You know you find a good author when you can see their desire is to be mastered by the text. They don’t spend tons of time positing on the details they don’t have – they unpack what they do have and seek to make it applicable for their readers. I have been growing more and more in my appreciation of these types of men and women because they have an earnest desire to show others what God’s Word evidences and what He desires for us.

 

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

Why I Review Books

img_7378-stack-of-books-q67-303x500Before I publish my next book review, I want to give some insight into why I even bother with doing book reviews. In Evangelical Christianity, we see a plethora of new books added to the stockpile of literature every year. Some excellent titles are brought forth from publishers (even from within publishers we would not expect). However, some really bad books are also put to print.

Many have a tendency to read books without much of a filter. They take in everything they can from a piece of literature without thinking of the source, the theological statements, the added principles between those statements, or the philosophy of this age that is present within it. In other words, some will ingest and mimic an author’s poor hermeneutic and presuppositions in their own personal studies of God’s Word.

As a seminarian, my explicit goal is to weed through as many books as I am able and share not only my recommendations, but also the books I would stay far away from. This is why I am so keen to review books of all different genres within the sphere of Christian lit. By leaving the selection process as open as I have, I am given more opportunity to review books from various authors (some I have heard of, some I have not).

A vitally important part of this process, that I embark on in every book I read, is to do some research on the author. I try to find out their history. I ask questions like: what other publications, be it articles or books or blogs, do they have? What is their bible study method (liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between; allegorical or literal)? What is the quality of their character (do they exhibit godliness and a desire to please God)? Whom do they associate with?

Now this last question is asking in whom they would align themselves within the field of teachers. In clearer candor – do they call heretics “brothers”; are they part of the Emergent Church; etc.? In finding out whom they rub elbows with, I can get a fragmented, but useful bit of information on what they believe about the bible. The rest I glean from their writings to either confirm or disprove my speculations.

To be clear: this part of the process does not start until about halfway through the book. I want the book to be able to speak for itself. I desire to give it a chance to be removed from the author and examined on it’s own merit. Truthfully, that doesn’t really happen, as the author’s presuppositions will always carry into the text (just as mine do in these reviews).

However, I still do this in the hopes that I don’t let my opinion of the author carry over into their writing. The author’s writing will form more of an opinion to me than any other thing that I spend research time on. This is really where we find out what they believe. If their theology is lacking, it will present itself in the text. If they are lazy writers, have an unbiblical agenda, misquote or twist scripture, have liberal or conservative theology, have a legitimate love for God’s Word and His people; it will be present in the text.

It is through this whole process that I hope to build a library of resources I can confidently give to other people and know that it will be a profitable read for them. I would rather take time out of my own life to sift through some books in order to help others who may not have that same time. I am a fast reader; I love to read; I can consume a 300-page book in a few days and I know how to mine it for gold. That being said, I also know how to identify if it is just good kindling.

Some people don’t have those skills or simply have not developed them yet. It is my hope that they can choose a recommendation from me that is thoroughly biblical and enjoyable to read. What is more of a hope for me though is that they will see a bad review and understand that some things are simply not worth wasting your time to read. Choose a book that you know will be profitable for you and bring edification to the church. Choose a book that you know will be biblical.

There are so many bad books out there – especially within the field of Christian authors. I am amazed how many actually get published. But – there are some excellent authors who dive into the text, adequately handle the Word, and give us the fruit of their labors.

I can promise you – I have an agenda. It is to find books worthy of your time. It is to find books that proselytize a pure, unadulterated message.

Go Where the Argument Takes You

When I am left to myself, I think. I can’t watch television, I can’t play a video game, and I can’t even read sometimes. I try to mindlessly scroll through Facebook, read a few articles, watch a few videos on YouTube (most of the time of people doing something stupid, and in turn, getting hurt). So what? What makes this so special from every other individual on the planet? Well, it doesn’t. The truth is, as individualistic as we all try to be – we have a common thread. Humanity.

Within that framework, there are the obvious differences. Some are born men, some women, and some try to switch up that order through gender reversal; some are straight, some are gay; some are black, others white; yet some are at a random point along this fluctuating scale. But the common thread remains the same. We are all human.

Many I know would argue that showing true humanity comes through accepting others as they are. Let them lead their own lives – after all, whom does it hurt? If I say God, I am bashed for utilizing guilt to soften the heart. If I tell people that God intervened for the elect, I am chastised for not only saying that God intervenes (for who needs intervention if they’ve done nothing wrong), but also for saying that God wills who will be saved. How can a “perfectly” moral being choose whom He will save? By the very definition of man – that is immoral.

If I preach from the Bible, I am labeled arrogant. After all, how arrogant is it that the Christian lays claim to the source of all truth? Not only this, but how does the Christian say such a claim is substantiated only using the scriptures? Is this not circular reasoning? Who am I to claim that there aren’t other ways to spirituality than Jesus Christ? Who am I to say that there is absolute truth when the array of Christian denominations has so many different interpretations on the bible?

Truthfully, these are all excellent questions. These are all questions I have spent years developing a defense to – but most just don’t care to hear it. The real question behind all of this is not if I can answer them successfully, but if I really believe God at His Word. For most of the world this is an incredulously idiotic notion. Truth be told, the scriptures make some outlandish claims.

Yet that is just it. The scriptures make some incredible claims. They do teach that homosexuality is a sin; that gender is not flexible – but a gift to be rejoiced in; that premarital sex is sinful; that deceit, malice, hypocrisy, loose living, drunkenness, and divisiveness qualifies one as wicked. The scriptures do teach that humanity, as one cohesive unit, is damned; God has wrath insurmountable reserved for those whom He calls “sinners”.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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 (Ephesians 2:4-9).

The bible makes some outlandish claims. The amazing thing is that far too many think they are able to avoid these issues. In doing so, they have already decided where they stand. Some still think they can muddy these claims, or soften the blow a little bit by focusing on the bits that make us feel warm. In doing so, they have already decided where they land. Some take these claims and twist them, or add to and subtract from them. In doing so, they have already decided where they land.

At some point, we must be willing to go where the argument takes us. If you declare that you love God – and you actually do, you will be shown to despise the operating systems that this world embraces and employs. If you declare that you hate God, you will be shown to despise those whom love God. There really isn’t much of a middle ground.

Just wrap your mind around that for a bit, all of it. The bible sure makes a ton of outlandish claims. As you and I share the common bond of humanity, especially the capacity to think and reason, I implore you to think. Right now you are either in Christ or not.

I can appeal to you in a manner befitting Pascal’s wager, imploring you to risk it and embrace the bible in faith for the sake of possibly being right so as to avoid punishment, or, I can trust that God is sovereign – and that this will serve to confirm as a witness to any who read it; this witness, of course, being one that either procures a seed to salvation from the Lord, or procures a testimony for judgment.

I earnestly do hope for the former.