“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the human mind, the good things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
It has been a trend in our culture for some time to consider the concept of “hell” to be one that is outdated. Some express the mindset by saying that a good God wouldn’t send people to a place like that. Yet we have that best and most-loving One on record, from His walk here with us, referring to it.
Christian writer George MacDonald lived in Victorian times. In his three volumes of Unspoken Sermons, he treated important topics powerfully and in a way that enlarges and encourages his readers. He is the writer whom C.S. Lewis described as “my master.” Scripture is illuminated on MacDonald’s pages, and one is “fed.” He touches on every important subject, just as the Word does. MacDonald’s sense of hell is that the Father who is Love will resort to whatever tormenting tactics He has to use — to cause as many souls as possible to turn to Him in righteousness and recognition.
Righteousness? In referring to the essence of the sacred text, Dr. Isaac Rottenberg, a past president of the Dutch Reform Church, observed, “It’s all about righteousness.”
Recognition? We remember the conversation between Jesus (Yeshua) and His disciples that began with His asking them who other people said He was and culminated with His asking them, “But who do you say that I am?” When Peter — apparently alone — responded with full recognition, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus expressed profound appreciation for his recognition. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you — but my Father in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter. And upon this rock I will build my church; and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.”
For much of our early life we appreciated the non-judgmental, progressive qualities of the liberal Christian church that our family preferred. But in more-recent years we have seen this church become increasingly one of the “ear-tickling” variety, as described in Scripture. Its primary spokespeople have chosen to be guided by what is popular to the extent that they are leaning toward secular humanism — largely abandoning this church’s Christian foundation and even disrespecting the Bible.
The perception of “crude salvationism” may have driven some toward secular humanism. This perception would perhaps be voiced by people associated with liberal churches — or even more likely by those who don’t bother with church at all. Of course there is an element of truth to this perception: that a “dumbing down” of something vast has been done by well-meaning, unsophisticated people.
Astrophysicist and pastor Dr. Hugh Ross has devoted his life to searching out answers to important questions — with the unique result being a synthesis that reflects both his considerable personal “assets” and his (at least) two areas of expertise.
We have learned from him and his organization, Reasons to Believe (reasons.org), that our world is apparently fine-tuned to an astonishing degree and in a sufficiently significant number of ways to leave no other rational conclusion than that a Designer of absolute mastery is behind the evidence that He has left for us to find! We have also learned from Dr. Ross that astronomy is entirely focused on determining when cosmological events took place.
He and his associates see evidence of this masterful Designer’s having worked for millions of years to create an ideal environment in which He could, in Dr. Ross’s words, “in the shortest time possible accomplish the elimination of evil.” He notes the many ways in which this present world could be described, as it is in Genesis, as “very good.” Beyond this world, ahead of us, Dr. Ross foresees a “perfect” creation that will be free from every manifestation of evil — just as one reads about in Revelation.
Carlisle Marney expressed it this way: “We know a secret — Jesus is the name of our species.” It has been said that Jesus was the first Human Being; but He invites us all to join Him! Jesus (Yeshua) is the perfect example of what God had in mind for every one of us. In His own precious words to His disciples after the resurrection, as He prepared breakfast for them on a beach, “Come and dine.”
Posted in Culture Tagged with: astronomy, bible, C.S. Lewis, Christ, Christian, Dr. Hugh Ross, humanism, Jesus, liberal, Peter, reasons to believe, righteousness, sacred, yeshua
Wayne Besen is a passionate gay activist and non-religious, liberal Jew who has dedicated himself to opposing the idea that homosexuals can become heterosexual. To that end, he founded the Truth Wins Out organization, and he writes extensively on the subject of “ex-gays,” with a monograph, hundreds of posts, and articles for the Huffington Post to his credit. (As to the question of “ex-gays,” see Chapter Twelve of my book A Queer Thing Happened to America.) Wayne has also appeared on O’Reilly and other TV shows, and he is never at a loss for words, especially when it comes to the “religious right.” In that spirit, he has graced me with several articles, including the not so subtly-titled, “Michael Brown Is an Anti-Gay Monster” (August 31, 2011).
In that article, Wayne claims that my “game is to try inciting followers to possible violence against LGBT people, while innocently maintaining that he loves homosexuals and simply wants them to meet his militant and perverted version of God.” He calls me “a slick dude,” a “sick and cynical” person, someone with “a messiah complex [who] is a diabolical individual who aims to manipulate impressionable followers to launch some sort of holy war,” noting however, that, I’m “too much of a coward to start the war” myself.
He even confesses, “I do strongly believe to my core that Brown’s ultimate goal is to create the conditions for a nasty physical clash.” Indeed, “The madman fully understands that he only has to create a hostile climate to inflame the most unstable of his thugs and they will eventually provoke the type of confrontation that this pathological monster deeply desires.”
God bless dear Wayne! He certainly has a way with words. After all, it’s not every day that you get called a pathological monster, a slick, sick, cynical, diabolical madman with a messiah complex, as well as get accused of trying to incite a bunch of unstable thugs “to engage in a violent physical clash with LGBT people.” (For what I actually advocate, namely, a totally non-violent, moral, cultural, and spiritual revolution, click here.)
Wayne even weighs in again in his own comments section, calling me an “ego-maniac,” while other commenters follow in his footsteps with sophisticated posts like these: “I would not be surprised if ‘Mein Kampf’ were to be found on his nightstand.” (This was followed by other comments too vulgar to print.) What a delightful, thoughtful bunch!
But I am only one of Wayne’s targets. In his most recent attack, “Mainstream Christians Must Stand Up to the Religious Right” (September 19, 2011), he reviles the hundreds of Christians with whom I attended the recent gay pride event in Charlotte, claiming that we “confronted and harassed festival attendees with [our] arrogant slogan ‘God Has A Better Way.’” He refers to us as “despicable bullies” and speaks of our “fanatical behavior,” although, for the record, our group of roughly 400 consisted of grandparents, moms, dads, kids, and college-age singles who handed out about 2,500 free bottles of water (labeled “Jesus Loves You”) and engaged in civil and respectful conversation with any who cared to talk with us. Oh, the horror!
All this, however, is the backdrop for Wayne’s heartfelt appeal. He is desperately concerned that religious “extremists” like me, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachman will “defile America – and permanently define Christianity.” Instead, Wayne wants the “Religious Left” to rise up and show America what Christianity really is. He writes, “It is time to stand up, speak out, and give voice to our values. If not now, when? Are we going to wait until it is too late and we have lost our country?”
The problem, of course, is that the “Religious Left” has rejected most of the fundamental tenets of the historic Christian faith, denying the authority of Scripture, espousing religious pluralism, defending abortion, and championing homosexuality. Could this be why these so-called “mainstream” churches are in such numerical decline while conservative churches are growing exponentially in many parts of the world? And could it be that the conspicuous lack of moral and spiritual absolutes in many of these “mainstream” churches is part of what fails to inspire their constituents?
Wayne himself is not optimistic about the prospects, writing, “This reluctance to stand up and speak out has created a hazardous vacuum where only the shrill and unreasonable voices of fundamentalism are heard. Instead of the dialogue that many progressives of faith claim to desire, this perceived weakness creates a lopsided right wing monologue, which is having a deleterious effect on our nation and the world.”
The reality, of course, is that the “Christianity” Wayne calls for bears little resemblance to the faith of the Scriptures or the faith of history, but that should not surprise us. After all, what else should we expect when a non-religious, gay Jewish liberal tries to redefine Christianity?
Posted in Sexuality & Gender Tagged with: christianity, conservative, Dr. Michael Brown, ex-gay, homosexuality, liberal, truth wins out, wayne besen
One need not have special revelation or any particular spiritual belief to know that what happened in Arizona was wrong in the worst way. We instinctively and rightly recoil from the thought of it, no matter where and how our morality is founded. Yet whether we consciously intend to or not, we not only react with revulsion, but also a question… what does this mean? Just as we know instinctively that it is wrong, we also know that it carries meaning. We want and need to interpret this event and what it means in our time, as well as what our response should be.
To the New York Times’ Paul Krugman and other similarly minded thinkers, the meaning is to be found in calling out right-wing political commentators for creating a climate of “hate” towards Democrats that is so dreadful that folks like Krugman “expect[ed] something like this atrocity to happen.” Our response to these murders, we are told, should be to call “all decent people” to “shun” the “likes of [Glenn] Beck and [Bill] O’Reilly.”
FoxNews and Drudge Report, on the other hand, seem to interpret this event as an anomaly we can safely attribute to the strange delusions of one mentally disturbed individual (while also throwing in that he was a “left-wing pothead” in order to curb the attacks coming from outlets such as the NYT). How is one supposed to react to the “Scary Freak” shown in the screenshot below taken from the Drudge Report homepage? Obviously, the intent is to disassociate this man not only from conservatives, but seemingly from all of us! The response they are advocating seems to be a very practical one, that we should improve our governmental mental health system so that people like this are identified, hospitalized, and (perhaps) medicated before they act out in this way.
While the conservative reaction described is more to the point (and certainly better factually attested and reasoned), I believe that the liberal attempt to interpret the event as part of a larger reality is right on, even if their conclusions are not. The NYT’s Krugman was right when he said:
It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.
Yet he was wrong in his analysis of what it is in the national climate that bred events and minds like this. The problem goes much deeper than right-wing rhetoric aimed at the left (as an aside, it should be noted that the left is often as bad as or worse than the right in their demonizing of the opposition, as discussed on yesterday’s Line of Fire episode). In fact, it goes much deeper than the New York Times, or FoxNews, or the Drudge Report are willing (or trained) to go. Krugman is right that there is “sickness” permeating our society, but the sickness is not only in “them” (to Krugman, the right), and it is not only in “him” (to Drudge, the shooter). No, the sickness is in us, all of us!
The nation’s sickness is an evil more real and devastating than any of us realize, and when events such as what happened in Arizona occur, we must discern that rather than some anomaly perpetuated by one angry or disturbed soul so utterly different from the rest of us (some “Scary Freak”), this evil is a public manifestation of a larger reality. We are in a sin-sick society that has cultivated a loveless, godless, and purposeless culture that provides its youth with precious little reason to live beyond the pursuit of immediate pleasure and the numbing of one’s pain. Is it any wonder that it is in the midst of this sort of environment we find young men that for whatever reason (be it mental instability, social rejection, or beliefs/ideologies) are neither enticed by the allure of pleasure, comfort, or societal status, nor intimidated by the punishments that can be leveled upon them by society’s social and governmental structures, turning their inward rage and hostility outward? While we ought to be shocked by this act, we ought not be shocked that a deluded young man living a meaningless, purposeless life in a meaningless, purposeless society, committed an act of meaningless, purposeless violence.
In addition to the immediate, visceral, and pragmatic response we should have to a tragedy such as this, there is a deeper reality we need to enter into in order to extract the meaning of something of this horror. What is the meaning of this tragedy? And what should our response be? Whatever the specifics of this particular case may end up being, and to whatever extent Jared Loughner was affected or unaffected by this age in the midst of his apparent delusions, I would submit that to look into the face of the “scary freak” pictured on Drudge above, or at the pictures of Virginia Tech shooter Seng Hui-Cho or Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold below, and look away without sensing a need to desperately change the culture we’ve nurtured is to see but not understand, to hear but not perceive. These were not individuals motivated by greed, or ideology, or so many other things that make (at some level) sense to us. There’s something desperate, something pathetic in their lives and actions.
There’s a deeper response called for, and it starts with a call for all of us to repent before the living God for cultivating the culture we abide in, asking the author of life to change us from those that sit idly by as generation after generation comes through the societal “system” we’ve set up without having any sense of meaning and purpose beyond the things of this world. There is a stream of true life available to all, and we must be ones that testify to its reality in our generation. We must be the “salt-seasoning” of our society, with a “saltiness” born from deep and real encounters with the Messiah. “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.” This is our divine responsibility… let’s not miss this.
Posted in Culture, Featured Articles, News Tagged with: arizona, congress, conservative, depth, drudge report, foxnews, killing, Krugman, liberal, line of fire, matt drudge, messiah, murder, New York Times, prayer, repentance, spirituality
Are you intimidated when so-called “Biblical Scholars” attack the trustworthiness of the Scriptures? To preach the Word of God with boldness requires confidence in its authority and it is upon this authority that our faith rests (Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God). Satan knows that if he can put a wedge under the foundation of our faith he has a better chance of toppling it. In Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project”, R.C. Sproul says, “If we can establish the existence of God and the trustworthiness of sacred Scripture, 90% of the work of the defense of Christianity has been solved.” No wonder the authority of the Scriptures is constantly under fire by those who seek to undermine the Christian faith.
The Post-Modern, liberal, higher critics that grace contemporary television shows and magazine articles are not the first to attack the authority of Scripture and they surely won’t be the last. In self-conceit, puffed up by the tiny sampling of regurgitated information they have swallowed, they confidently conclude that the Bible is untrustworthy and flawed.
But there is no reason for the faithful to sit by, nervously chewing their fingernails as the higher critics pose clever new attacks on the consistency of Scripture. Their arrogance, which is as old as the Bible itself, has always come to nothing and their arguments have been proven wrong time and time again. In fact, perhaps it is their incessant attacks that are the greatest proof of the supernatural origin of the Bible, because amazingly, in spite of all of it’s critics and enemies, the Holy Bible remains the best selling and most read book of all time. By contrast its many historical opponents and their once-profound arguments lie rotting in the ground together.
In 1776 Voltaire said, “100 years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” 100 years later Voltaire’s home was being used as a distribution point for spreading Bibles throughout Europe* and within 26 years of his death the British & Foreign Bible Society had been founded, sparking an unprecedented era of Bible distribution**.
In 1778 Voltaire, boasting of himself said, “It took 12 men to start Christianity; one will destroy it.” That was the very year that he died*.
Robert Ingersoll said, “In 15 years I will have this book [the Bible] in the morgue.” Fifteen years later, Ingersoll himself was in the morgue and in his estate sale a preacher bought his desk and spent his life writing sermons on it*.
In the late 1800’s a scholar named General Lew Wallace, a Territorial Governor and former U.S. Senator, set out to disprove the Bible. His quest led him to discover the wonders of Scripture and he ended up becoming a devout Christian and writing Ben Hur; a Christian novel, widely considered a true classic of American literature**.
Another scholar, Sir William Ramsey, had a similar experience. He traveled to Asia Minor on a mission to find geographical and archeological evidence that would disprove the claims of the Bible. Instead he was amazed to find that the Bible was remarkably accurate and was ultimately so convinced of it’s authority that he himself became a believer and biblical scholar**.
Today, in spite of many generations of opposition, by countess assailants, the New Testament has been translated into 1,168 languages***. It is by far the most popular and widely circulated printed material of all time. Even today, it remains a best seller and is printed in so many languages, translations and versions by so many publishers that it is literally impossible to calculate how many millions, if not billions have been printed and circulated.
Its critics and opponents along with their books and institutions have proven to be about as formidable as a gnat battling a hurricane. The contemporary voices that arrogantly rail against scripture will soon be as cold and silent as the grave, as are all those that came before them. But the voice that spoke the worlds into existence will still be thundering through history to every nation and generation through His revealed Word, “Thus says the Lord”.
All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD STANDS FOREVER. ~ 1 Peter 1:24-25
* Dr. Del Tackett in “The Truth Project” by Focus on the Family (http://www.thetruthproject.org)
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: biblical scholars, christianity, conceit, focus on the family, liberal, post-modern, rc sproul, the bible, the truth project