Ben Witherington – A Review of Rachel Held Evan’s Book – Searching for Sunday

Ben Witherington recently wrote a review of Rachel Held Evans’ book “Searching for Sunday”.  He captures very well both what I like and dislike of Rachel’s blog.  He writes:

“What her book fails to really grapple with however is the major difference between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance of us as we are.

Frankly put, God doesn’t ‘accept’ us as we are, because what we are is fallen and flawed sinful people. God loves us as we are, but God is insistent that we all change, repent of our sinful inclinations and ways, and become more like Christ. A loving welcome by Jesus does not exclude incredible demands in regard to our conduct, and indeed even in regard to the lusts of our hearts. As it turns out, God is an equal opportunity lover of all humanity, and also an equal opportunity critiquer of all our sin, and with good reason— it is sin that keeps separating us from God and ruining our relationship with God. This is why the only proper Biblical approach to everyone who would wish to be ‘in Christ’ and ‘in the body of Christ’ is that they are most welcome to come as they are, and they will be loved as they are, but no one is welcome to stay as they are— all God’s chillins need to change. Welcoming does not entail affirming our sins, much less baptizing our sins and suddenly calling them good, healthy, life giving.”

Witherington’s review can be found here: A Searching Book – Rachel Held Evans’ ‘Searching for Sunday’

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Why Polygamy is Wrong

This post is about why I believe polygamy is wrong.  A while back I was speaking with a fellow believer who holds that polygamy is acceptable.   That conversation is why this is on my mind.

I also believe that homosexual sexual relations are wrong.  It’s not the point of this post to address that issue, but I do think that some of the arguments for the two issues overlap.  Another issue that may have some overlap and Biblical relevance is the issue of slavery.  I will get into that later in the post.

Marriage was designed by God to be between one man and one woman. It started that way with Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24 states that “…a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Jesus made the assumption that marriage was between a man and a woman.   When the Pharisees questioned him about divorce, Jesus quoted from the same passage from Genesis:

It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:5-9)

Jesus says that “they are no longer two, but one.” Like divorce, polygamy was tolerated in the Old Testament.  Like divorce, it was never God’s design.

The Apostle Paul wrote that a man should have only one wife.  Writing about the qualifications for a deacon, he states:

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (1 Tim 3:1-3)

and

appoint elders in every town as I directed you.  If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.  He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:6-9)

The Greek phrase that Paul uses here is “mias gunaikos andra“.  It literally means “a one-woman man”.  Polygamy fits into the same category as cheating on one’s spouse.  Or put differently, polygamy disqualifies one from leadership in the same way that drunkenness, arrogance, greed, and rage do.

Christian consensus has always advocated monogamy.  Polygamy has never been considered acceptable by any orthodox Christian group.  Christian consensus has always been that marriage is between a man and a woman.  We should be wary of arguments that disregard the “rule of faith” (Things that nearly all Christians at all times have agreed on).  People like Muhammad and Joseph Smith have advocated polygamy.  But Muhammed was non-Christian, and Joseph Smith was heterodox.  That ought to be a warning to us.

Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s preferred by God.  Polygamy took place in the Old Testament.  But that didn’t make it okay.  Like slavery and divorce, polygamy seems to have been something that God permitted because of the hardness of hearts, but it was not ever something he preferred or designed.

Polygamy always causes hurt and division.  In the Bible whenever polygamy took place, it caused hurt to others.  Abraham’s polygamy was due to his and Sarah’s lack of faith in God’s promise, and it caused division in his family (Genesis 21).  This division still exists among Jews and Arabs today.  Samuel’s mother Hannah was grieved because of having to compete with the other wife of her husband who ridiculed her (1 Samuel 1).  David’s polygamy resulted in murder and family division.  Solomon’s polygamy pulled his heart away from God.

The idea of polygamy is perverted.  The possibility of multiple sexual partners takes a man’s thoughts to places he should not go.  As Christians, we need to take our thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5).  This is especially true of our sexual thoughts.  It is easy to imagine having sex with another woman.  And it is wrong to do so.  Jesus says that if a man even looks at another woman with lust, it’s the same as committing adultery in his heart (Matt 5:28).

Wisdom on this issue  requires consensus with other believers.  Sometimes those of us in the Protestant tradition think we can peruse a few Bible verses on our own, and come up with our own original doctrines.  However, when we come up with our own innovations and ideas, we ought to discuss them with other mature Christians.  And if they disagree with us, we need to take their wisdom into consideration.

We can’t expect God to give us wisdom if we are sinning.  If a man is actively looking at pornography, he cannot expect that the Holy Spirit will guide him to truth on this issue.   Does our motivation to justify polygamy come from a heart that seeks after God?  Or from a desire to satisfy our flesh?

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[Link] Why I Left the Church of the Nazarene

As a person who loves the Church of the Nazarene (COTN), it hurts when I run across stories like this one. But this is a well written and graceful account that needs to be shared. It’s by a former Nazarene pastor named Ric Shewell, who now serves in the UMC.

Link here: Why I Left the Church of the Nazarene

He rightly points out that his experience was unique, however, he mentions something that I have also noticed: Among COTN members and some pastors, there is growing distrust of Nazarene colleges, and a fear that those institutions have become “liberal”. I don’t think that distrust is warranted, and it makes me sad. I don’t always agree with Nazarene theologians and professors, but I have never doubted their love for the Lord, and their love for the students they teach. In fact, several of the professors wrote replies to the blog and apologized.

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Did God Fix the Outcome of the Seahawks/Packers Game?

The Seattle Seahawks (my team by the way, go ‘Hawks!) have been in the news recently because of their improbable last minute win over the Green Bay Packers.  With four minutes left in the game, the Packers had a 99.9% statistical chance of winning.  But the Seahawks pulled it out.

Russell Wilson, the QB for Seattle, is a vocal Christian.  After the game he prayed and gave glory to God (which is awesome).  He also seemed to imply that God caused the improbable outcome of the game.

“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special. I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs.  It’s what’s led me to this day.”(link)

Some other Seahawks gave credit to God too, but without implying God determined the outcome.

“We fought.  Playing football it’s awesome.  God is so good.  It don’t get no better than this.” – Earl Thomas, Facebook.

“To God go the glory!” – Richard Sherman, Facebook

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Aaron Rodgers, QB for the Packers (and also a Christian) had a different view.

“I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome, He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”(link)

Here’s what I think:

It’s really cool that so many football players are vocal about their Christian faith, and that they give God the glory.  I admire that in their character.  Through their platform they can be a positive witness for Christ.

And God certainly does help us to do our best in all we do as we honor him.  In  the case of athletic events, he does that for Christians on both teams.

But there are some problems with the idea that God fixes the outcomes of games.

First, God can be glorified with either outcome of a sports event.  God didn’t need the Seahawks to win in order to bring about his plan. If the Packers had won, God would be equally glorified.  It is really a small view of God to think that he has to make sure a certain team wins.  God is bigger than that.

Second, it implies that God honored the request of players and fans of one team, but not the players and fans for the other teams.  Does God love Russell Wilson more Aaron Rodgers?  No, he loves them both.  And for a player to claim that God favors him over others is a little selfish.

I agree with Aaron Rodgers.  God cares less about the outcome of a game than he does the people who are involved in it.

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Does Romans 10:13-14 Rule Out Inclusivism?

In the past I’ve written several posts about why I’m an Inclusivist.  Inclusivists hold that it’s possible that some who haven’t been evangelized can still be saved through Christ.  For a more complete explanation of the view, see this post.

Exclusivists, on the other hand, hold that the unevangelized will not be saved, since they do not know of Christ.  This is a view that I respect (since I’m not certain of my view).  Recently a fellow Arminian named Brendan Burnett wrote a good post advocating for the Exclusivist view.  Even though we disagree, I appreciate his challenge to my thinking and his gracious tone. You can see his post here.  I wrote a comment on his blog, and this post is an expansion of those thoughts.

One of the passages that Exclusivsts refer to is Romans 10:14-15.  Brendan references it in his post.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

On the face, this text would appear to rule out Inclusivism.  Paul seems to be saying that someone can’t believe or call on Jesus unless they have heard the good news preached to them.  However, I think that is an over-reading.  That’s not Paul’s argument.  To understand what Paul is talking about, it’s necessary to take a wider look at Romans 9, 10, and 11.  Paul’s concern in these chapters is is with the physical descendants of Abraham, the nation of Israel. Most of the Jews of Paul’s time did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  Paul was grappling with that fact.  Israel is God’s chosen nation.  How then can it be that so many Jews do not believe?  That is the background for Romans 10.

Arminians generally agree that Romans 9 is about the unbelief of Israel.  It is not about Calvinistic election.  The problem with the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 is that they initially acknowledge that it’s about Israel, but when it gets down to the particular examples of Romans 9 (Jacob, Esau, Pharaoh, etc), they forget that it’s in reference to Israel, and claim it’s about individual election and reprobation instead.

I think Exclusivists make a similar jump in conclusions with Romans 10. Romans 10 is not about the unevangelized (who are not addressed at all), it’s about the Jews who actually have been evangelized, and who still don’t believe.  Israel is still in focus.

Specifically in chapter 10 Paul asks if the the reason Israel does not believe is because they have not heard the good news or do not understand it. But he comes to the conclusion that Israel has heard the good news and does understand it. He writes, “But I ask: Did they [Israel] not hear? Of course they did…” (Romans 10:18)   Paul’s argumentation in Romans 9-11 follows this line: he repeatedly presents possible reasons why Israel doesn’t believe in Jesus, and then he shows how each of those possible reasons is not the actual case.

For example, are the Jews in their predicament because…

God has failed? No, God hasn’t failed (Romans 9:6).
God is unjust? No, God is just (Romans 9:14-15).
They haven’t heard the good news? No, They have heard the good news (Romans 10:18).
They haven’t understood the good news? No, They have understood the good news (Romans 10:19)
God has rejected them? No, God hasn’t rejected them (Romans 11:1)
They have stumbled too far to be redeemed? No, they haven’t stumbled too far (Romans 11:11).

Romans 10 is not about the unevangelized, even though it initially looks like that on the first reading. Rather, Paul is asking if the reason the Jews haven’t believed is because they haven’t heard or understood.  But he then comes to the conclusion they have.  In other words, the Jews had been evangelized but still didn’t believe.  So, I think the exclusivist interpretation of Romans 10:14-15 is a misapplication and an over-reading.

 

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The Soveriegnty of God – by Jerry Walls

Seedbed just posted an excellent article by Jerry Walls on God’s Sovereignty .  It can be found here.

From the post:

…the sovereignty of God is not a Calvinist doctrine, it is a biblical doctrine, and no one who wants to be faithful to Scripture can afford to ignore or downplay this great truth.

and

Now here is a good place to highlight the difference between the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty and the Wesleyan view. According to classic Calvinism, God’s sovereignty means that he determines literally everything that happens in the sense that he specifically causes everything to happen exactly as it does.

This can sound like a very pious thing to say, and at first it might seem to glorify God. But on closer inspection, it has very troubling implications. On this view, God caused Nebuchadnezzar to be proud, caused him to boast, and then caused his downfall, as well as his subsequent repentance. This is a troubling view because it means God actually caused his sin as well as his punishment.

The Wesleyan strongly disagrees. In the Wesleyan view, God did not cause or will Nebuchadnezzar to be proud. Rather, he became that way by his own free choices, by taking undue pride in his accomplishments. God then punished him to bring the truth home to him in order to move him to repentance. When he acknowledged the truth about God, he was restored to his kingdom.

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Expandable Shoes for Kids in the Third World

This is neat idea, and the inventor is from my alma mater. :)

Nampa man creates shoe that expands to make life better for those in poverty

shoe

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