Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Don't You Go Putting God In That Box!

The modern evanjellybean lexicon is chock full of worthless jargon, and few phrases approach the utter worthlessness of "don't put God in a box". The easy route is to sneer that it's impossible, that God will do what He wants and we can't stay His hand, etc. True enough. But what is the cliché intended to mean?

It could mean that God does not fit our neat systematic categories. God is transcendent and awesome, and no simple statement or summary can totally describe Him or His works. Which wouldn't be the worst thing you could say, I guess. But it seems that usually it's taken a step further - that we can't say categorically who God is or what He will do. Por example:

Some say salvation is only through Jesus. Don't put God in a box!
Some say miraculous/attestational gifts ceased. Don't put God in a box!
Some people think God is sovereign in election. Don't put God in a box!
People put God in a box and think the Bible is the only way we find God's word.
Some people say God cannot lie. Don't put God... er, wait...

And so on. The cliché is not usually a warning against over-systematizing or reductionism, but a worthless (or anti-worthfull) shot against certainty in what God has revealed.

It's not 'putting God in a box' to believe He will do what He says He will do. It's not 'putting God in a box' to believe God is who He says He is. Interestingly, the Bible is full of commands about and case studies in taking God at His word, and not once does it refer to it as 'putting God in a box'. Do you know what the Bible pert near always calls this nefarious act? FAITH!

So to summarize, if "putting God in a box" means believing God has revealed truth that we can know and believe, then it's the heart of Christianity. By all means, 'put God in a box', if that 'box' is the truth He has made known to us.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Your Treasured 'Private Conversations' are Utterly Insignificant

Stop me if you've heard this before. Some mega-famous celebrity pastor is about to do something colossally stupid and sinful. Many little people - blogger/lepers, pastors of 'small' churches - voice concern over the issue. Mega-pastor publicly blusters and slanders and blasphemes. The little people cry out for help from the Truly Great Champions of the faith. And the response inevitably comes back: "Quiet down, you! You don't know what private conversations are happening behind the scenes!"

I'll admit - I don't know what private conversations are happening. And? Those private conversations are utterly irrelevant. I don't give a rat's lower digestive tract about them, and neither should you. They're about as important to the issue as ... well, they're so insignificant, the language lacks the words to explain just how insignificant they are. They don't matter one tiny bit. So shut up about them, already.

Don't believe me? Let me illustrate. Suppose I somehow get an opportunity to preach. During the sermon, I take ten or fifteen minutes to talk about how much I hate my wife, call her all sorts of horrible things, and actually threaten her a few times. Really ugly, nasty, horrible stuff. Now some people want to confront me about it.

Can you imagine the pastor and a few elders intercepting them and telling them to shut up about it - they've been talking to me privately, and important conversations are taking place? When I'm alone with her, it's all sweet and good, honest! If things are to progress, they can't have rabble like the peons in the pews speaking up! That might just alienate and offend me. No, you silly little people, just be quiet and get back in your place - the experts are handling this, and trust us, everything will be OK. And in the small chance that it isn't, well, tough questions will be asked someday.

Can you picture that? Not likely. The entire concept is utterly stupid, insane, and extremely dangerous. Most likely you'd think that what we're talking about in private doesn't matter at all when I act like that in public. In fact, you might think that if there's such a big disparity - that I'm really nice in one arena but a reprehensible reprobate in another - that the relationship is abusive. And you'd be exactly right.

Nothing that is said in private can justify such sinful, despicable public behavior. It couldn't in my example, and it can't when the Towering Guardians of Christendom tell you to just simmer down and let the Top Men handle it. It's really hard to even get my head around that kind of arrogance.

Ugh. This Again?

It seems this comes up every once in a while, but with the recent Supreme Court arguments on 'gay marriage', it wasn't shocking to see numerous Facebook posts about that famous 'gay' Biblical couple, David and Jonathan. For those unfamiliar with this line of what I'll generously call reasoning, it breaks down like this:

1) David and Jonathan were gay
2) Therefore homosexual perversion must be OK

Now typically the counter is to attack point 1. You'd look at the relevant Biblical texts and show that there's absolutely zero reason to believe they were gay, explain what those 'difficult' texts actually mean, etc. That's a perfectly fine approach, and certainly any reasonable person could undertake it, because let's be honest - based on the Biblical texts, there's exactly zero reason to suspect they were sodomites.

But I get sick of playing defense all the time, so I'd like to suggest mixing it up a bit on this one. Sometimes you can get clarity by assuming the other side's case entirely, and seeing what happens. For example, someone who may have been involved in a crime offers his explanation of events - if his explanation is sleazy, it's safe to conclude he's sleaze. A grand jury uses this same method - they accept everything the prosecution says at face value, with no cross-examination or defense at all. If the case wouldn't be strong enough to merit conviction even under those ideal circumstances, they dismiss without indictment, and suggest the prosecutor find a line of work better suited to his lack of discernible talent.

Let's pretend for a second that there's a shred of evidence for David and Jonathan being sodomites. More than that, let's really use our imaginations and pretend that it's actually true. Now ask yourself - does it follow that homosexuality is not sin? No? OK, let's lower the standard. Does it even move one micron towards showing that homosexuality is not sin? Still no? Well, then, what would it prove?

All it would indicate is that in addition to his other sins recorded in scripture (which are shown in plain, unflattering terms - as well as God's judgment on them), David also committed homosexual sin. That's it. All the posturing and distortion and bluster amounts to nothing but "David was a sinner", something we already know.

So where does that leave this line of argument? It fails spectacularly on at least two counts. There is zero reason to think David and Jonathan were sodomites. And even if there was, so what? It's still a sin, God is still the righteous judge, and His wrath against sin won't be propitiated by such a pitiful excuse as "Well, someone in the Bible did it, so it must be OK." As with every other sin, there is no comfort to be found in excuses and blame-shifting and everyone-else-is-doing-it, but only in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Two Chavezes and a Savior

In case you missed it, Google set off a little tempest this week. Apparently they do a little doodle thing on their front page from time to time, and this time they chose to celebrate Easter by honoring Cesar Chavez. Um, OK, whatever. I'm not sure why anyone's all that upset that an anti-Christian organization like Google failed to feign respect for Jesus. If they're going to foment rebellion against the Creator 364 days a year, might as well be indifferent on day 365. It's incredibly sad that the leadership at Google is so intent on rebellion, but I'm not going to be upset that they didn't fake caring for one day.

But it is worth pondering what they chose to honor instead of the Lord of Lords. Google is pretty solidly lefty, so it's no surprise they celebrated one of the left's icons. Now, I'm not an expert on Chavez - for years I thought people talking about him meant boxer Julio Cesar Chavez - but some research yields the following about this great savior:
1) Like any good leftist, he believed and taught the solution to any problem was organized effort, whether as a union or (ultimately) the all-powerful omnibenevolent State. No matter what the issue, just rally enough people behind it, and you can overcome it. Well, except for...
2) He's dead.

What really got my attention, though, were the tweets and headlines about "Google honors Chavez on Easter". My first thought was not Cesar, but recently-deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo. For those who have already forgotten, Hugo Chavez was about as rich and powerful a man as the world has ever seen. Within his own nation, nobody could ever tell him "No!", and he was a major player internationally as well. And as he was dying, his desperate last words were:

I don't want to die. Please don't let me die.

Thanks, Google, for unintentionally bringing that contrast to mind on Easter. In the face of death, the all-powerful sovereign Chavez was reduced to desperate begging. All his power and wealth and authority were worthless when death came calling, as it will for all men. But Jesus, enduring a death he did not deserve, faced it triumphantly - It is finished! - and on the third day walked out of the grave, never to face death again.

Both Chavezes died, and all who hope in them, or other 'saviors' like them, have no hope in the face of death. Those of us who hope in Christ are free from slavery through fear of death.

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!