Christianity And Gay Marriage

Apr 01

Christianity And Gay Marriage

One of the big cultural stories in America right now is trying to reconcile religious belief with non-discrimination laws in regards to homosexuality or other alternative sexual lifestyles. People are up-in-arms over legislation that would allow people with religious convictions to refuse to participate in celebration of gay marriages, etc. The argument is, no one should be discriminated against, based on their sexual orientation. The prime example of this is a Christian wedding cake maker who holds the belief that the Bible teaches that homosexual relationships are sinful, and therefore refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Should this be allowed, or is this discrimination? I do not believe this ought to be considered unlawful discrimination. Let me explain. Imagine a Christian who owns a sign company. A customer comes in wanting them to make a billboard that says, “Gays are faggots.” He should be able to refuse to make the sign, due to his religious convictions which state that hate is a sin. He shouldn’t be forced to make the sign, even though such a sign is legally permitted. Or, if a customer wants a sign made that reads, “People who believe in Jesus are assholes. There is no God.” Or, “Obama is an idiot.” If a Christian lives by his/her morals, such signs go against their moral code, because it goes against the Bible’s teachings of respecting everyone, not taking God’s name in vain, showing respect for government authorities, and so on. However, if someone wants signs made containing such statements, America is a free country. Find someone who feels no moral culpability for creating them. Imagine that same Christian sign maker has a gay customer who needs a sign made for their science project, “The Study of Green Plants In Urban Environments.” He ought not be allowed to turn away the customer, simply because he/she is gay. However, the situation is different if that same gay customer wants a sign made for their wedding which reads, “Uniting Fred and Ted In Holy Matrimony.” Take another instance. A Muslim caterer believes that only Muslim weddings honor God, and that all other weddings are blasphemous to God. A Christian couple requests him to cater their...

Read More

Repentance and Faith vs. Creeds and Doctrines

Jul 03

In my last post, I looked at the danger of emphasizing works over faith/repentance. You could say this is the fallacy of emphasizing the changing of one’s hands or feet. In this post, I want to look at the danger of emphasizing creeds/doctrines over faith/repentance. You could say this is the fallacy of emphasizing the changing of one’s mouth, or even one’s intellect. Salvation goes deeper than that–it is the changing of one’s heart. Until I started attending a United Methodist church, creeds were largely irrelevant to me, as my “branch” of Christianity hardly ever made mention of them. Some of the more liturgical branches of Christianity, however, emphasize them quite a bit. In my neck of the woods, instead of creeds being emphasized, certain doctrines were more emphasized. I see little difference between the concepts of creeds and doctrines. I will focus mainly on doctrine in this post, but I think much of this post also applies to creeds. Since I grew up “evangelical,” and still am content to be labeled as such, out of all the doctrines of the Christian faith, there is one doctrine that is primary for me: the doctrine of the Gospel (or salvation). With few exceptions, I generally am ok with disagreements on other doctrines, as long as we can agree on the Gospel. Here’s a brief definition of the Gospel for the purposes of this post: Everyone is a sinner and as a result no one deserves heaven. No one has any hope, outside of God offering forgiveness of sins. Because God is holy and just, He cannot forgive sin unless the penalty for sin is first dealt with. If He deals with us according to our sins, we are destroyed, and forgiveness is irrelevant at that point. God sent His perfect Son Jesus to die as a sacrifice for our sins, so that the penalty of sin would be carried out on Him instead of the rest of humanity. Jesus defeated the curse of sin, and the proof is His rising from the dead. God offers forgiveness of sins and restoration of relationship with Him to those who repent of (change their mind about) their disobedience to God and put their...

Read More

Faith and Repentance vs. Works of Faith and Repentance

Jun 26

Faith and Repentance vs. Works of Faith and Repentance

As many people may be well aware, there has always been a tension between faith and works. Is one saved simply by believing in Jesus and repenting of their sins? Or are good works necessary for salvation? Should one be emphasized more than the other? My view can be summed up in a few sentences: True faith and repentance will naturally produce works. Therefore, anyone who claims to have put their faith in Jesus and repented of their sins ought to demonstrate such fruit. If they don’t, their claim of conversion/repentance is suspect at best. Yet, it is possible to do such “good works” without putting one’s faith in Jesus or repenting. Therefore, in the end, the emphasis for salvation should NOT be on works, but on faith and repentance. A few further thoughts/implications in regards to this theory: While it is true that true faith/repentance should produce fruit (and LOTS of it), and if fruit isn’t being produced, one’s conversion/repentance is suspect, we must also be careful not to become picky “fruit inspectors.” Jesus did say that we will know a tree by its fruit, but it’s not our job to determine someone’s salvation based on how much fruit he/she is or isn’t producing. If we have reason for concern over someone’s salvation because we don’t see what we think is adequate fruit to demonstrate such conversion, the best thing we can do is pray. In addition, we must also act based on our convictions. If someone’s life isn’t adding up to what we would expect in a converted life, we must be careful to entrust responsibility or leadership to such a person. It is very likely that the person hasn’t been converted. At best, they are very inconsistent, and not trustworthy. If they are confronted by church leadership on issues where they need to repent, and they refuse to do so, they should be treated as one who has yet to be converted (regardless of whether they have been truly converted or not), according to Scripture. It also seems to me that we can too easily become fixated on fruit. Becoming picky fruit inspectors is one example of such preoccupation. Another example is the emphasis on fruit...

Read More

An Argument for Trusting Paul Over the Gospels

Mar 18

I believe there is a movement today that emphasizes the Gospels found in the Bible to the point that it minimizes the writings of the Apostles in the NT (which is mostly Paul) and the rest of Scripture (i.e. Old Testament). I think this movement has been around for awhile now in the “liberal” mainstream church, and is also in the emergent church. If you look at these movements, however, you will find that they really emphasize only certain portions of the Gospels (and completely avoid much of Jesus’ teachings in the synoptics and almost all of John). In my previous church, I definitely saw this. The attitude was, “Yeah, Paul did say that, but how does that line up with what Jesus said here about not judging, etc.?” While I find it silly to pit one against the other, I’d like to lay out a reasonable argument for trusting Paul more than the Gospels, rather than the other way around. Again, let me repeat, I don’t think we should trust one more than the other–I think they are equally trustworthy, but I am doing this to make a point. So here are the reasons for trusting Paul over the Gospels: The letters of Paul were written earlier than the Gospels. We should be aware that as time goes by, the possibility of something losing its truth becomes greater. The earliest views of Jesus should be trusted over the later views, which have more possibility of being invented ideas, rather than truths. Paul’s words are his own words. Jesus’ words in the Gospels were written down by other people, not by Jesus himself. How can we trust that they are what Jesus really said or what He was trying to say? With Paul’s words, we have first-hand teachings. The Gospels sometimes frame Jesus’ teachings, so that in one gospel, Jesus’ teaching seems to mean one thing, and then in another, the same teaching has a different meaning. Even if Jesus did say these things, can we trust that the writers of the Gospels are framing Jesus’ words as He intended them? Are we sure they are being used in context? Luke wasn’t even a disciple of Jesus, so he...

Read More

The Search For Truth

Dec 15

I’ve heard this said before, and as awkward as it sounds, I agree with it: “If I had to choose between the truth or Jesus, I’d pick the truth.” Before anyone things I’m a heretic, let me explain: Unlike many other religions, Christianity is based on truth. For example, if Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, Christianity is a lie. And if Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, I refuse to continue as a Christian. That’s because I want to know the truth.  I’m a Christian because I believe it is the truth. Some people just want to find a religion that makes them happy, or that agrees with their sense of right/wrong, or that brings them fulfillment. Christianity for them is a good option for choosing how to live one’s life. But that’s not the basis of Christianity. It’s basis is that the events recorded in Scripture actually happened, and that Jesus is who He said He is. That means we can trust Jesus and we can trust His word. The apostles didn’t die for their faith in Jesus, because they could “dig” His way of life (it was actually a difficult way of life). They died for the faith, because they knew He had risen and He was the Son of God who died to save the world from its sins. If you are currently struggling to figure out which religion one should follow out of the many choices out there, let me give you some advice: go with the truth. Don’t go with what simply appeals to you. If after investigation, you determine that Jesus was a liar, or that He had deluded himself into thinking He was some sort of savior/messiah, then what can I say? But if you are convinced that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, then be confident in Him. Don’t shy away from the truth. Christians shouldn’t be afraid of the truth, even when it contradicts what we’ve always believed to be true. Either what we’ve always believed is a misrepresentation of what Scripture says, or the “truth” which contradicts the belief really isn’t true, and in the end will be proven as such. Or, the...

Read More

On Taking The Bible Seriously

Jun 13

I had a conversation with Audra’s brother a few days ago, in which he said that he couldn’t understand what the point is for a church to exist if it’s not evangelical. I agreed with him. It quickly turns into merely a social institution (and a rather unimpressive one to the world at that). I suspect by the term “evangelical,” he meant a church that takes the Bible literally. At least, that’s my simple definition, although it’s a little more complex than that. By and large, however, evangelical churches tend to view the Bible more literally than mainline or liberal churches. That’s why they evangelize. Yet with words like “evangelical” or “literal,” pretty soon words like “conservative” or “liberal” start coming up, and it starts to sound political. And general lay-folk start to check out as the discussion starts to sound divisive or unimportant. That’s why I’m thinking that in order to avoid such language (which can be misleading or confusing), I propose that we start talking about how “seriously” a person or a church takes the Bible. After all, some parts of the Bible aren’t supposed to be taken literally–they are written in a genre of figurative language, etc. Yet, even parts of the Bible that aren’t supposed to be taken literally–even these passages must be taken very seriously. For example, when Jesus says that it would be better to gouge your right eye if it causes you to sin, so that you go to heaven with one eye instead of hell with two eyes….there are very few people, evangelical or not, who would take this passage literally and walk around with only one eye in their sockets. Yet, this passage surely should be taken seriously. Jesus, while speaking in hyperbole, intends for his audience to take him very seriously. Unfortunately, many churches have decided that the Bible shouldn’t be taken too seriously. For example, they marvel at the beautiful language of the prophets, but they don’t realize that the whole point of the prophets speaking is that the nation of Israel wasn’t taking God’s Word seriously. They felt it wasn’t necessary to follow Scripture, but just to appreciate its existence. The prophets declared, “Since you won’t take...

Read More