Vicky Beeching: “I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am.”

Every generation of Christians has their hot topic, their moral dilemma, their moral or ethical line with which they flirt while their parents stand by in horror.  The topic of today seems to be that of homosexuality.  And we are confronted by it yet again by a popular Christian music artist named Vicky Beeching. She has written many songs that are popular to be sung in contemporary worship services all around the country including songs like “The Wonder of the Cross”.  This week she declared to the world that she is gay, and God loves her just the way that she is.

And people are responding.

One extreme is saying, “Boycott Beeching and all of her songs” while the other is saying, “Amen sister!  God does not judge us, in fact he created us uniquely, so live it out!”

What is lacking here, however, is a basic understanding of God’s nature and the essence of salvation. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

 – John 3.16

Forgiveness and salvation are available to everyone.  Yes, Vicky, God does love you.  But He does not condone any unrepented sin, and He will not excuse it.  He will not condone or excuse my unrepented sin.  God’s love is not the question here, forgiveness is.  

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

 – Heb 10.26-27

God is the ultimate being who wrote the book on morality.  Literally.  He defined right and wrong, He established the Law, declared punishments for breaking it and He alone upholds it.  It is His judgment and wrath for breaking His law from which we need salvation both momentarily and eternally.  But we, being in our physical bodies, often believe the lie of the enemy, “You surely will not die!” (Gen 3.3).  This was his first deception, and his best, and he continues to use it today.  God’s law is written on our hearts and our consciences bear witness to it (Rom1).  We know the first time that we lie, steal, cheat on a test, fornicate or lust that it is wrong.  We feel guilty.  But when we see no immediate consequence we harden our hearts to that nagging conviction and indulge in the pleasure of the fruit that is “good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise” (Gen 3.6).  

God loves homosexuals.  He loves alcoholics.  He loves liars and cheaters and evil doers.  If He did not, none of us would be loved.  But He does not forgive everyone.  

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

 – Prov 17.15

If we continue in wickedness, He will not justify us.  To do so is an abomination.  And He reserves the right to define wickedness because He is God.  He has not hidden from us those things that He hates.  They are made clear in the Scripture because “God is not a God of confusion” (1 Cor 14.33), and He desires that we would repent and be saved (1 Peter 3.9).  But His wrath and holiness cannot be separated from His love.  And they are not at war with one another.  His love satiates His wrath, and to be found in His love we must confess that we deserve His wrath and repent.  

Having the disposition of homosexuality in and of itself is not sinful.  Lusting, or acting out on those temptations is.  Having the desire to party, get drunk, mess around with your boyfriend (or girlfriend), cheat on a test, speed down the highway, or steal is not sinful.  To let your mind remain on those things, to lust for them and to commit them is sinful.  And to try to redefine morality so that our lusts are excusable is sinful.  Sure, you might be “made” to desire a sin, but that does not make it permitable.  We all have dispositions and inclinations to particular sins.  As of right now, our culture still considers sex with a child a sin.  God outlined it in the Scripture clearly that sex is a gift reserved for a man and a woman in the consensual and loving bond of marriage.  Anything else is sin.  But there is a movement that is attempting to define a person’s desire to have sex with children as a preference and genetic makeup, just like homosexuality has already been defined.  Most of humanity would look on the topic with horror, but in the world of psychology, the transition is being made and some day it may be acceptable.

My point is simply this:  it makes no difference what your lusts, desires or dispositions are.  We are all born in sin, we all have a sinful nature, and the desires of our flesh are wicked.  To come to salvation, we have to agree with God about his definition of sin, we have to understand that the penalty for those sins is death and damnation, we have to confess our sins and we have to repent or change our ways.  Yes, we will still stumble and fall – we will sin.  But we must hate it, we must put it to death, we must confess it, we must seek to put it away because it is filthy and it dishonors God. 

So, should we boycott Beeching?  Should we quit singing her songs?

By no means!  Is a song necessarily void of its value because the author has fallen morally or ethically?  Paul allowed people to preach the Gospel who preached it from selfish and wicked motives (Phil 1).  Why?  Because it makes no difference the preacher or the author, only that the Truth is proclaimed.  Chances are high that most of our forefathers, who are quoted often and regularly, have different convictions or beliefs than you and I.  Many of my favorites (Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc) believed in infant baptism.  C. S. Lewis had some very quirky thoughts.  Solomon himself, after writing books of the Bible, possibly died apart from faith.  But His words are still inspired and included in the Bible!  Do you love the old hymn, “It is well with my soul”?  Horatio Spafford died as part of a Messianic cult.  Does the truth within the hymn lose it’s truth by nature of Spafford’s apostasy?  No, it certainly does not.  

If, however, when you sing the words coined by Beeching, you stumble, then refrain for the sake of your own conscience.  But Truth is Truth, regardless of the heart or dispositions of the preacher.  

God does love you, whatever your sinful disposition.  But do not make peace with your sin.  Seek God’s heart on it, confess it, and trust Him to give you the strength to live a holy and righteous life.  

Can a Christian be depressed?

depression

Sometimes life gets messy.  The headline of many articles for the past week has centered around depression, anxiety and suicide in light of Robin Williams’ recent suicide.  Opinions have been flying, people have lashed out based on their own personal experiences and self righteousness to both defend and condemn the mentally ill, the melancholy and the downtrodden.  Every time I broach this topic, I make a very clear caveat:  I am not a licensed counselor, and I am not a trained psychologist.  I have studied neuthetic counseling and believe in the restorative power of God and I also have a bachelor’s degree in Biology and understand that sometimes chemical functions interfere with one’s mental and emotional state.

But this morning I have been reflecting on the very nature of God and our expectations of life post-salvation.  Can a true believing Christian be depressed?  If there is not a chemical imbalance that is leading him to despair, but preoccupation with how badly his life is progressing and a lack of hope that things will improve, does he truly have faith?  Does a Christian have to “count it all joy when [he] encounters various trials” (James 1.2)?

Think of the terms that you would use to describe someone who wrestles with depression.  Melancholy.  Gloomy.  Dejected.  Despondent.  Dismal.  Unhappy.  How about this one:  

Man of Sorrows

What does that make you think?  Is this someone who is depressed?

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted. 

 – Is 53.3-4

This man regularly went off to be alone, to pray and to contemplate life.  He also was recorded as praying this:

“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”…and [He] began to be grieved and distressed.  Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”  And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

I have heard many people think aloud about the nature and disposition of Jesus.  Many like to say, “Jesus was a great guy to be around”, attributing to Him a great sense of humor, cosmic wittiness and a likable disposition.  If God created everything in the world, then He clearly created humor and fun, right?  I will not speculate on this here.  I consider few things of greater danger than adding to or speculating on those things about which Scripture is silent.  Jesus never tells a joke or laughs in the recorded history of his life.  Does that mean he necessarily did not?  No.  But what it does tell us is that He was grieved.  All of the time.  Over the brokenness and wickedness of Jerusalem.  He wept at unbelief.  He became angry at sinful practices within the temple.  And when He approached the very death that would offer us salvation, He verbalized that He Himself was grieved to the point of death.  His grief was justified, knowing exactly what was coming, but nevertheless, He would have exemplified the characteristics that we, in our psychoanalysis, would label depression. 

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

 – Is 53.5-8

Jesus was called a man of sorrows.  He knew the weight of the world.  He bore the sins of the world.  He grieved over the wickedness of the world, of his community, of his friends and family.  Does that sound like a light-hearted guy to you?  Perhaps it does, and perhaps He was able to maintain that perfect balance of joy in grief, rejoicing in suffering and all that good stuff.  He is God, after all.  

What I want to suggest here, however, is that sometimes life is overwhelming and that is OK.  Jesus Himself was grieved of life to the point of death.  He was known as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Have you known sorrows?  Are you acquainted with grief?  

I am the man who has seen affliction
Because of the rod of His wrath.
He has driven me and made me walk
In darkness and not in light.
Surely against me He has turned His hand
Repeatedly all the day.
He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away,
He has broken my bones.
He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship.
In dark places He has made me dwell,
Like those who have long been dead.
He has walled me in so that I cannot go out;
He has made my chain heavy.
Even when I cry out and call for help,
He shuts out my prayer.
He has blocked my ways with hewn stone;
He has made my paths crooked.
He is to me like a bear lying in wait,
Like a lion in secret places.
He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces;
He has made me desolate.
He bent His bow
And set me as a target for the arrow.
He made the arrows of His quiver
To enter into my inward parts.
I have become a laughingstock to all my people,
Their mocking song all the day.
He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drunk with wormwood.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
He has made me cower in the dust.
My soul has been rejected from peace;
I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished,
And so has my hope from the Lord.”

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.

 – Lam 3.1-26

It is normal and acceptable that we encounter trials, sorrows and griefs.  In fact, we serve a God who is sovereign over those things.  Jeremiah attributes his hardships to the Lord!  “He has filled me with bitterness” Jeremiah says, and his “soul has been rejected from peace” by God!  God is not only sovereign over our souls after death.  He is in charge of the good and bad times today, too.  But Jeremiah teaches us how to respond.  We claim the promises.  We recognize our blessings.  We look forward to the day when everything makes sense and we trust that God will bring it to be.  

All things are working together for good, even if it hurts.  Even if it does not make sense.  Even if it seems to rock your faith.  It is OK to cry about it, to be frustrated by it.  But do not stay there.  Pray with Jesus, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22.42).

What is the chief and highest end of man?

As information becomes more readily available and individuals assume more rights based on nature of simply breathing, we hold ourselves and one another to lower and lower standards.  Some professions, like medical doctors and lawyers still require years of rigorous study and practice, but we award medals to children for trying, we declare no winner and loser over pee-wee games, and pass children through grades so as to not make them feel badly, even when they have not mastered the material.

Laxity and inclusivism has also compounded in the Church.  Did you know that in the early church they required a three year period of instruction before one was allowed to join?  The entire first year of one’s interest in Christianity was set aside for personal study and one-on-one instruction whereby the interested party became familiar with the Scriptures and practices of the Church.  The second year, the candidate became labeled as a “hearer” and was allowed to attend the assembly and listen to the preaching.  The third year, he became a “kneeler” and was allowed to stay after the preaching and through the prayer time of the church.  Only after those three years was the candidate allowed to join the Church, be baptized and partake in communion.  

This sounds extreme.  But Church membership was considered a sacred thing.  Parishioners knew that they were submitting to the leadership of the Church, and the leaders were taking Spiritual responsibility for the parishioners.  Scripture teaches us that pastors will give an account for those under their care, and in the early church they took that exhortation extremely seriously.  Members knew that allowing one in who did not believe or was divisive could cause problems, so everyone purposefully and carefully made sure that they were on the same page.  They wanted to protect the reputation, the sanctity and the honor of the Church.

When I was growing up, my father was approached by the chairman of the deacons at the church we were attending at the time to join the deacon board.  His sales pitch was, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything”.  Early church fathers had to memorize the Psalms, the Gospels, and multiple epistles just to be considered for Church leadership.  But now, we just need a warm body to sit on the committee.

I realize that not all churches are that lax in their approach.  Some churches excel in discipleship, mentorship, and accountability.  Some churches highly respect the authority of the leadership and leaders tremble at the reality of giving an account to God for those in their congregation and are intimately involved in the teaching and training of their flock.

One tradition that I respect and wish had been upheld throughout the generations is that of catechism.  Though many of our forefathers of the faith wrote extensive catechisms, one has shone throughout history as the benchmark for Christian discipleship, the Westminster Catechism (1647).  Converts, both child and adult, were taught nearly two hundred questions and answers to help frame their belief system and establish maturity and continuity.  

These are the first five questions and answers.  Meditate on these today.

Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

Q. 2. How doth it appear that there is a God?
A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.

Q. 3. What is the Word of God?
A. The holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.

Q. 4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the Word of God?
A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God.

Q. 5. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

westminster catechism

Everyone Is An Expert.

einstein

On Monday night, the news rocked the United States the comedian Robin Williams had committed suicide by hanging himself.  Almost immediately the blog posts, the “authoritative” articles on depression and addiction began to get passed around, and now we are in the phase of everyone getting mad at one another for their opinions.  Matt Walsh has received a lot of heat for stating that depression is not only chemical, but can be a spiritual issue too and consequently made a decision to kill himself – he is not a victim of an outside force, while others want to say that Williams was indeed a victim of an illness over which he had no control.

I will not chime in on the issue here.  I have written on suicide before, evaluating its damnable nature, and have studied under some of the most respected Biblical counselors in the world.  But what is grieving my spirit today is not the fact that the conversation is happening, but the nature of the conversation.

Consider a controversial topic:  suicide, depression, homosexuality, gender roles in marriage, divorce, remarriage, atheism, whatever.  Then go to your facebook page, where you can hide behind a screen and the solitude of your bedroom and write your opinion on the topic.  What will happen?  Immediately people will respond with their opinions, and that which they believe gives them authority on the topic is simply this:  “My best friend killed himself”, “My sister suffers from depression”, “I have lots of gay friends”, “My parents are divorced” or “My buddy lost his mom in a tragic car accident and his dad is now dying of cancer and he has no reason to trust God because his life has been so terrible”.

“I know someone who” has now become the benchmark for authority and grounds to speak to a topic.  Unless, of course, you yourself have walked through it.  If you struggle with depression, homosexuality or have been divorced then no one can assert authority over your experience.  Unless, perhaps, they have experienced it too.  We are all reactionary to the world news around us, and we choose to process it based on our own experience and we demand that others listen to our opinions because we are so wise.

We are once again back to the conversation of absolute truth.  A philosopher will read my blog and say, “She is doing exactly what she is condemning”.  And in a way, yes, I am.  However, my opinion is that I am incapable of determining the absolutes on any of these topics and I choose to look to God to see what He determines as the absolute, the Truth.  I submit to an authority higher than myself.

If we can agree to allow the Bible to be our authority then we have a starting point.  If you refuse the authority of God through the proclamation of His Truths through the Bible, then no common ground for conversation can be established.  We will argue the nature of man; does he have a soul?  Is there an eternity?  Is there morality?  And if so, how do we define it?  These conversations are impossible without an agreed authority.  Even if we happen to have a similar morality, we will differ on topics, nuances or preferences.

FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORDS, AND ALL IT CONTAINS.

 – 1 Cor 10.26

Not only does the Earth belong to God, He created the laws of science, laws of nature, moral laws and structures for how we are to live.  Unfortunately, in evangelicalism today, we teach one another to shy away from that.  “No one can refute your testimony” we praise one another when training Christians to share the Gospel.  And while that is true, we must remember that the opposite is also true: we are incapable of refuting another’s story.  What about those who have learned to distrust God because things did not go how they wanted?  What about those who have experienced evil spirits?  What about those who have experienced miracles in false religions?  What about those who have witnessed the sinfulness of Christians and the church full of hypocrites?  What then?

No friends.  Your testimony is important.  But it is not the Gospel and it will not save anyone.  And your testimony cannot stand up as superior to another’s testimony of a false god.  Only the Word of God can do that.  Only the inspired Scriptures can, without a doubt, affirm that we are living a godly or sinful life.  Only God’s direction can determine if we know Him and are forgiven.  And since He is the author of human life, He gets to determine the morality of homosexuality, He gets to determine to cure for depression, He gets to exemplify Himself to the atheist, He alone is God.  And one day, that friend or sister or parent will kneel before Him with the rest of creation.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Phil 2.9-11

Has God done a mighty work in your life?  Do you have a friend who suffers from depression or has committed suicide?  Are your parents divorced?  Or is your buddy homosexual?  That person is not the authority on the topic.  You may not dictate how culture handles the topic just because you know someone walking through it.  God has written the book on each topic.  Literally.  And He has the say.  And whomever is living in rebellion of what He has said about it will give an account for it one day.  So whose side do you want to be on?  The judge’s?  Or the defendant’s?

Let’s get over ourselves.  Let’s get over our “experiences”, and let’s learn to evaluate our experiences against the heart of God – which we can only know and learn through the Word of God, the Bible.  Share your testimony, but lace it with Scripture, and remember that your testimony is fallible, but God’s Word is not.

Does God suck if Christians suck?

auditorium

Why do you not go to church?  Did they judge you when you walked through the door?  Did you not get a follow up call when you filled out the visitor card?  Did someone say something hateful about your guilty pleasure?  Or interpret a passage of Scripture differently than you would?

Christians are hypocrites.  They claim the love of Jesus and say that they believe the great commandment, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”, but they are mean, they form cliques…  Yes friends, they sin (Matt 22.39).  So naturally, since I am perfect, when I walk into a church building and it is full of people who are not perfect, the logical thing is to walk out.

Right?

Because it is all about love anyway.  And since they do not love me perfectly within the church walls, then I will go out and justify myself by preaching love without a concrete definition of it.  But I know I can do it better on my own than with that group of liars.

How many times have you encountered this argument?  I have not performed any polls, but I heard this position frequently in the Midwest.  Living in the West, now, it appears a general apathy towards the Church at large, or a cynicism that faith is a crutch for the weak is more prevalent, but the issue remains:  People get hurt by Christians, so they hold their grudge and choose to ignore God.

“No one invited me out to lunch today, and no one cares that I was even here.  So I’ll not come back.  I can pray on my own, and even listen to a podcast!”

“I don’t like how the church spends our money – why is a sound system more important than feeding the poor?  I’m going to give my tithe to the local soup kitchen instead of the Church.”

“I like to gamble.  But the preacher had the audacity to get up on the stage and say that it is sinful.  How dare he.  I’ll show him, next weekend I’ll be at the casino instead of here listening to him judge me.”

Christians are sinful people.  They have been forgiven, and the call of Christianity is to die to that sin, to learn to love God above all else and to love one another as we love ourselves.  But no one does it perfectly.  Scripture tells us that if we say that we do not sin, we are liars (1 John 1.8)!

When I was in the sixth grade, I learned first hand that pastors are sinful because of a moral failure.  My family joined a new church and six years later lost our pastor again, because of a moral failure.  Since then I have watched three close friends who were in the pastorate and one missionary throw away their faith, life and ministry because they chose sin over God.

Does that mean God is at fault?  If Christians suck, does that mean that God does too?

I’m writing still mulling on an article by Michael Gungor, on which I wrote yesterday.  His message was on the denial of absolute truth, but his undertone was resentment towards the church because serial killers believe in God, but heretics help him when he is desolate.  I wonder if that is truly the case?  And I wonder if he is defining love by tolerance or by the Bible?

Is it loving to stand by while someone hurls face forward, full speed ahead towards Hell?  Or is it loving to jump in their path and try to help them see the path to Heaven?

But I digress.

Anyone who has raised children knows that you cannot judge a parent by the actions of his child (especially an adult child).  The most godly of parents end up with hellions some times.  And sometimes the most wicked and neglectful parents end up with dynamic, kind and loving children.  So why would we try to judge God by His children?  All humans are sinful.  They are going to hurt us and let us down.  Even those who have experienced the redemption of God and who are trying to love with everything in them.  They will get tired, irritable, selfish, “hangry”, or pass by you and not see you.

But God will never let you down.

The LORDS lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

– Lam 3.22-23

He will keep His promises, He has never not kept His promises.  He will complete any good work He has begun in you, me, or any believer (Phil 1.6).

So, dear skeptic, put down your unrealistic expectations and pride, and realize that Christians mess up too (just like you).  And remember that the Church is not a museum of perfect people, but is full of those who know that they need a Savior because they are not perfect!  And when your heroes, leaders, and friends royally screw up – or even abandon the faith – remember that your hope is not found in them, but in the only one who will not and can not fail.

And to the faithful church goers, remember that there are broken and hurting people coming in our paths, through our church doors, and perusing our facebook pages.  Speak God’s truth in love.  Embrace the repentant and help one another learn to know and love God more, making disciples and building Biblical community.

You are only responsible for you.  But you are responsible for you.  So let’s not ignore God if His people seem unlovely, because eternity is at stake.

Gungor and Absolute Truth.

This morning I read an article by Michael Gungor, a musician, who is offended that a friend would consider him no longer a Christian “because of my lack of ability to nail down all the words and concepts of what I exactly BELIEVE “.  His premise is a philosophical acrobatic which has been around for centuries:  how do we know we can believe or know anything?  Philosophers have questioned everything from knowledge and learning to the simple question, “how do I know I exist?” And it is from this degradation of the understanding of reality that Renes Descartes concluded his famous thought, “I think, therefore I am” in 1637.

But Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, was 2100 years behind the more well known thinker who wrestled with existence, the Buddha.  Siddhārtha Gautama (the Buddha) lived five hundred years before Jesus walked the Earth, and built an entire philosophy and religion on the presupposition that nothing truly exists, and to attain freedom from the cycle of suffering (exemplified by the cycle of reincarnation), is to become freed from passions and enslavement to the physical realm.  Enlightenment, then, is realizing that nothing is real and ultimately ceasing to exist.

Gungor is flirting with this fundamental issue in his post.  While never quite settling on the Buddhist end that nothing truly exists, he questions if we can ever truly know something and argues that we only believe what our environment/culture teaches us, and all that we think we know is fundamentally a belief.  Using gravity as an example, he argues that there is a possibility that our understanding of gravity is errant and someday another source may be discovered (like a computer simulation).

He then attempts to apply his logic that all knowledge is assumption to God:  since the Earth is constantly rotating, and it is spherical in nature, looking physically up towards the sky is not necessarily looking towards Heaven, if such a place even exists.  He does not disprove the existence of Heaven, but simply attempts to define a spiritual place physically and implies that since we never know if we truly are looking towards it with our eyes, we can never truly address it.

Our environment and culture shape what we believe.  But we never can really know anything because it might be disproven, and thus everything is an assumption.  And since everything is an assumption that is molded by our experiences, we only believe what we experience.

Are you confused yet?  If so, it is because this circular logic essentially says nothing.  He ultimately argues that nothing really matters, except how you act based on what you believe.  You may not judge another’s beliefs because his beliefs are simply the result of his environment, and while he admits it sounds fatalistic, he still tries to apply morality to an existence without absolute truth.

And therein lies the key.  

This man is so preoccupied with assumptions that he misses the primary assumption he is holding, and that is that his logic has the final say.  There is no absolute truth and he will use his logic to determine his god and his own morality, a lifestyle of love, how he defines it based on the environment in which he grew up, however to which he is not allowed to hold another accountable.  Because my experience might shape my morality differently than yours.

Whew.

Live and let live.  Except, don’t judge me because you don’t really know anything, and I won’t judge you because I don’t really know anything either.  However, I reserve the right to be angry because a serial killer affirms Jesus and impending judgment but still murders.

His conclusion, in regards to Christianity, is simply that he finds the Bible to be allegorical.  No, friends, this is not a new statement.  Have you ever heard of St. Augustine?  He argued that the Bible should be read allegorically 1400 years ago.

But the problem here is that in arguing such, we take God’s authority away and place it squarely in our own hands.  It is now my interpretation of this story, the moral that I see present in it, that is of importance.  So Gungor says he is incapable of believing that Adam and Eve were the first humans, because of “what he has seen”.  He is now the authority, his environment has shown him something that he believes to disprove this (even though he admits his experience might be disproven further), and so he will find a moral in the story to affect his actions.  But it will be only his moral, because it might say something different to you.

His conclusion is this:

So, for me, I’ve decided to think about my ‘beliefs’ in terms of how I live rather than what my unconscious assumptions are. Because there are lots of people that have all sorts of beautiful ‘beliefs’ that live really awful lives. If I’m on the side of a road bleeding, I don’t care if the priest or the Levite have beautiful ‘beliefs’ about the poor and the hurting.. Give me the samaritan. The heretic. The outsider who may have the ‘wrong’ ‘beliefs’ in words and concepts but actually lives out the right beliefs by stopping and helping me. That’s the kind of belief I’m interested in at this point.

And after telling his constituency not to try to label him and say that he is not a Christian, he says,

So you believe in God? So what. You believe Jesus was the Son of God that will someday come again to reconcile all things? Big deal. So do most serial killers.

He attempts to apply James’ teaching of faith through works to himself, stating that all that matters is what you do.  “The right beliefs” he defines, as someone who stops to help him.

Now.  That was all a recap of what he said.  And my response is simply this:  You are not the authority.  Nor am I.  Nor Gungor or anyone wrapped up in vain philosophy.  It sounds to me as though this man is upset that serial killers believe in the facts presented in the Bible but continue to live heinous lives.  The Bible and the facts claimed therein, therefore, are the culprit and consequently untrustworthy.  Instead of attacking the issue of sinfulness within Christians, and instead of trying to submit to God and His statutes, he throws the baby out with the bathwater.  Since a demon can academically assert the truth and reality of God, then God is not a truth and reality.  Implied, however, on a deeper level, is that he is at an impasse with God because he loves something that God defines as sin, and therefore is trying to justify himself by reinterpreting God.

Every one knows that there is a problem with humanity and that is evil.  This man wants to encourage you to live by love, but he will not dare tell you how to love because your environment alone can dictate what you consider love to be, and what actions are morally acceptable and even good.  However, he is offended that someone might try to categorize him based on his belief system.  What is loving for you is your decision, as long as it does not offend me.  But then he strangely interjects his caveat, that the right belief is to stop and help him when he is hurt.  So, I guess he can define for you what is loving.  And right.  Because of his assumptions and environment.

Everyone is trying to deal with the problem of evil.  Even if you philosophically argue that everything is personal preference and disposition (there is no absolute truth), if someone steals your car, murders your mom or punches you in the face, you are going to expect justice, if not seek retribution yourself.  Why?  Because it is evil.  And you know it.

All religions in the world are attempts at dealing with this problem.  The major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Islam, Catholicism) know that the evil is within us and are trying to work off a debt of sin.  Muslims, through the five pillars, Jews through sacrifices and Catholics through prayer and penance.  Most polytheistic religions consider the gods to be, at least in part, a source of the evil and attempt to appease the gods of their anger (which can be a result of any stimuli), through sacrifice, ritual and offerings.  Eastern religions suggest that suffering is the result of desire and thus freedom from the cycle is the goal.  Nothingness.  Suffering is merely perceived, so get over it.

It is Christianity alone that says, “I am incapable”.  Christianity acknowledges that my logic is limited, my strength flawed and my nature wicked.  But God.  These are two of the most beautiful words which are repeated throughout Scripture.  God took it upon Himself to reveal Himself to us, to give us His Word, to offer us forgiveness and salvation through the literal death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to then instruct us how to live in a righteous way.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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.

– Eph 2.1-7

God defines morality.  God defines good.  God defines love.  My pastor likes to say this, “Is it more loving for God to give us His Word, tell us His heart and show us the way to salvation?  To warn us the way of death and to make one, easy to understand path?  Or would it be more loving to place us in a world of evil, with multiple paths and say, ‘You figure it out’?”

Just because you have never seen the laws of gravity broken does not mean that God did not write the physical laws of the universe.  Just because you have seen fossils in the ground and listened to humans say that the placement of fossils in the sedimentary record proves evolution, and argue that they completely understand the half life of carbon and thus can tell all of history by their scientific method does not mean that God did not create the ground, perhaps some of it complete with fossils, and that the Bible is not true.

You are not god.  I am not god.  My logic or skills of science or perception do not change reality, morality, judgment or eternity.  And my feelings or desires do not affect what God defines as sin.  Nor does the culture at large.  God created all of humanity, all of the world, and cultural shifts and quirks that we see exhibited in our society today are not new.  There is nothing new under the sun.  And when these sinful tendencies were exemplified in previous generations, God did not change his mind.  He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness.  Sodomy:  sexual intercourse through the anus, attained it’s name because of the homosexual cultural of the city of Sodom.  God judged it some four thousand years ago.  So are we suddenly more enlightened than those people?  Or the ancient Romans, two thousand years ago?

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

– Joshua 24.15

I will serve the Lord.  And I consider it the most loving this possible to plead with you to serve Him too, because I believe His Word, the Bible, to be true and accurate and the only hope.  So if you want to let me define my own love, then let me love you by sharing with you the hope that I have found in forgiveness and redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ and not of my own logic or effort.  And please do not try to change God’s words or speak for Him.  Because He has clearly outlined sin, the penalty for it, the offer of forgiveness for it, redemption from it, and eternity with Him.