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Freedom for All!

Following today’s #SCOTUS ruling in favor of the Green Family of Oklahoma City, I wrote the following on Facebook:

Just to clarify, in case you missed the real issue behind the emotionally-based headlines…. Today’s Supreme Court Decision in favor of the Green Family (Hobby Lobby, Mardel, etc. stores) does *NOTHING* to prevent access to contraception. It does *NOTHING* to prohibit access to abortions. It does *NOTHING* to restrict the ability for women to get healthcare.

What the ruling *DOES* do is to allow people to express their First Amendment Rights of Free Speech and Religion through their privately-held businesses. And it limits the Federal Government’s power … just like the Constitution does.

The Green Family’s employees are *free* to purchase their own birth control. They are *free* to purchase their own abortifacients (abortion-causing drugs), and they are *free* to purchase their own abortions.

Limits on Government. Freedom for the People. Today’s SCOTUS Decision protects Constitutional Freedom for everyone!

Happy Independence week, everybody!

‪#‎freedom‬
‪#‎scotus

I recommend that you also check out Ed Stetzer’s great article, “Hobby Lobby Wins: Where Do We Go from Here?

The only thing I didn’t say is that, “Everybody wins, except for unborn babies.” That is still an issue to pray about. Perhaps one day, the Supreme Court will — just like they did with African Americans — affirm the “personhood” of the unborn, thus confirming Constitutional Rights upon them.

Side note: Abortion is disproportionately high for minorities. And abortion clinics are disproportionately placed in minority neighborhoods. So, although the Supreme Court affirmed the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for African-Americans, abortion providers like Planned Parenthood wish to rob them of those rights by disproportionately killing their children. There. I said it.

I will moderate comments for spam, but I promise to post all on-topic comments, whether or not I agree with them.

 

 

Phil Robertson, The First Amendment, and the Christian Response

News of Phil Robertson’s “indefinite suspension” from the A&E Network’s immensely popular Duck Dynasty has exploded across the social media in the past 24 hours. As I am typing this post the three top ten trending terms on Twitter are #Duck Dynasty, A&E and Phil Robertson.

In case you missed it, Phil Robertson made some comments in an interview with GQ Magazine, expressing his personal thoughts on sexual expression outside the confines of monogamous marriage as well as other behaviors spelled out in 1Corinthians  6:9-11. Yes, some of his remarks could be considered “crude”, but that’s the way Phil talks and he has used the exact same anatomical terms on the show when he was explaining the “birds and the bees” to his grandchildren. And for what it’s worth, GQ Magazine is not known as a “family friendly” magazine. GQ’s subscription page has the byline, “It’s how sophisticated gentlemen keep up with style and fashion.” The magazine is not “pornographic” like many other “men’s magazines”, however, it is designed to be read by men; Phil Robertson’s choice of words is not out of line. (Note: Before his suspension, Phil issued a statement regarding his remarks, reiterating his religious beliefs and how they relate to his interaction with those who see things differently than him.)

Many Christians are in an uproar, claiming they will boycott the network and “Liking” various “We Support Phil” and “We Stand with Phil” pages on Facebook. I have “liked” a few of the pages as well.

As I sat down to write a response this morning, I came across this article written by a friend, Scott Prickett. Scott speaks as a Christian lawyer regarding the separate issues of our Constitution’s freedom of speech and religion on one hand, and the Bible’s descriptions of morality on the other hand.

The issue isn’t free speech and the censorship of Phil Robertson.

A&E is free to make the decisions they have made. And the viewing public is free to support – or not support – A&E because of their decision by how we spend or don’t spend in buying DD merchandise. I’m sure that according to  contractual arrangements, more profits from the merchandise goes to A&E than the Robertson family.

A few years ago, Natalie Mains, lead singer of the “Dixie Chicks” said she was ashamed she was from the same state as President Bush. She exercised her freedom of speech. In response, many Americans exercised their “freedom of the purse” and many radio stations, especially in Texas, exercised their freedom of airplay. I don’t know (or care) what happened to the group, but their music is rarely played, they’re rarely on TV, and I’m confident that they were deeply affected financially.

Last year, GLAAD boycotted Chic fil-A because the CEO commented that he supports traditional marriage, implying that he doesn’t support “nontraditional marriage”. Sales spiked and it proved to be the least-effective boycott in the history of mankind.

The free market has a way of utilizing its own “free speech”.

I expect that A&E will regret their decision. But whether they do or don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised when lost people act like lost people.

Christians need to be careful of how we express our concerns. Some of the posts I have seen on Facebook are downright hateful and vengeful. This is out of character of how the Bible tells us to to act.

Phil’s teenage granddaughter, Sadie Robertson Tweeted, “Prayer is the best conversation of the day. It’s better to go to God before taking it to someone else.” Such wisdom from a teenager!

I have a quick question

Have you prayed for the executives at GQ and A&E as well as the critics at GLAAD and the LGBTQ community as much as you have expressed your angst with your family and friends? I must confess that I haven’t.

Yes, we must be careful how we express our concerns (Colossians 4:6). The lost (and the fence-sitting world) are watching.

What do you think?

 

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Is Premarital Sex a Sin?

Another day, another Facebook post. And another blog post. A friend referred to an article on The Christian Left’s website. The article asked if premarital sex was a sin.

The author goes into great detail, spanning some seven pages of text, to argue that premarital sex is not a sin. He says that the Greek word we use to translate fornication does not mean premarital sex. He says that the Biblical references that speak of fornication actually address rape, adultery, and prostitution. He concludes,

Since the most important law in Christianity is the Law of Love this must apply to sex too. Don’t use people. Don’t hurt people. Don’t hurt their feelings. Don’t lead them to think you feel one way when you really don’t just to get sex. Don’t view them as an object. Don’t push them to do something they may not be ready for. Sex must be mutual. …

The author’s conclusion insists that, as long as sex is expressed in a loving context, and as long as it’s consenting adults and nobody gets hurt, premarital sex is not a sin.  I beg to differ, however.

The author uses several “manners and customs” resources written from a rabbinic perspective, to make his point. However, he does not address the concept of how words and customs change over time (see Note 2 below). Also, he never cites lexical (Hebrew or Greek dictionaries) resources (see my notes below); and this is unfortunate. He is correct in pointing out cultural differences between Biblical times and modern times. However, he does not address the fact that modern (especially Western) conventions of courtship and post-teen marriage was unknown in the Old and New Testament times. Therefore there would be no need to address the modern concept of premarital sex in the Old Testament or New Testament. In other words, in Biblical Times, about the time they reached puberty, young men and women would enter betrothal, leading to marriage. Also, verses like Genesis 24:67 describe that marriage occurred with act of intercourse; in other words there was no courtship or prearrangement at all. The author speaks of how the Bible treats multiple wives and concubines, however he fails to differentiate between those things described (i.e., the things that happened) and those things prescribed (i.e., the way things are supposed to happen) in Scripture.

For example, in the story of Abraham, we are told that Abraham had intercourse with Hagar (described), though God did not prescribe that Abraham to do it. In the case of Solomon, we are told that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Kings 11:3 described), yet God distinctly tells the Hebrews to not marry foreign wives (Exodus 34:16 prescribed). In fact, we are told that his downfall was that over time, Solomon’s wives distracted him into following their gods (1Kings 11:4 described).

Another important description/prescription can be seen in the Old Testament descriptions of polygamy, and the New Testament prescriptions that church elders and deacons must be a “one-woman man” (1Timothy 3:2, 12).

The author is correct in pointing out that the term fornication includes rape, adultery and prostitution and that most of the OT “fornication” passages refer to those definitions. However, the New Testament Greek word (from which we also get pornography) includes all sorts of sexual immorality, not excluding premarital sex. He also neglects to address another Greek word used in the New Testament to describe sexual sin: licentiousness. Between these two Greek words, pretty much all non-marital sexual activity is covered.

Finally, in a most offensive, presumptive comment, the author reveals his bias:

Many of the sexually repressive teachings that developed in the middle ages are still being followed today. These teachings are based on oppressive Christian traditions that have no biblical basis other than ignorance.

In contrast to the authors comments, the New Testament is very “un-oppressive” and has a great deal of descriptions and prescriptions painting women in a very positive light, as they are given new freedoms in the New Covenant (Galatians 3:28). Women are the first people to see the Empty Tomb (Luke 23:55). Women are very active in the early church. Acts 2:17-19 — quoting Joel 2 — even says that with the Holy Spirit’s anointing, women would prophesy). Also, Romans 16 mentions the deaconess, Phoebe (Romans 16:1) and the apostle, Junia (a legitimate translation of Greek in Romans 16:7). Any “oppressive” Christian traditions do not find their foundation in the inspired, progressive Biblical revelation.

 

Application

We often come to wrong conclusions because we ask the wrong questions. “Is premarital sex sinful?” is one of those wrong questions. If the Greek word for fornication means “sexual immorality”, we must ask, “Does premarital sex fall under the category of sexually immorality?” Corollary questions are, “What is sexually moral?” and “What is prescribed (not just described) in Scripture?”

The foundational question we should ask is, “Biblically speaking, what is the purpose of sex?” I think it’s safe to say that the first Biblical purpose of sex is procreation Genesis 1:22), though it is not limited to just procreation. Paul says that sexual oneness is a mysterious model of Jesus and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32) Thus, Paul’s prescription for Believers seeking to obediently follow Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit is: Celibacy outside of marriage and fidelity in marriage. (Galatians 5:16–17)

Paul acknowledges that we have sexual desires, but says that there is a proper context for expressing those desires. “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV) Note that Paul prescribes a one-man, one-woman marriage union.

In relation to the paragraph above, the right question is, “What is right about premarital sex?” Does premarital sex model the mysterious union between Jesus and the church? It does not. God’s prescription of the “Law of Love” does not negate the law of God’s righteousness. Biblically based sexual expression is within the confines of God’s righteousness. And God prescribes it as “very good”. (Genesis 1:31, 2:24) Paul goes on to say that married couples should regularly engage in this pleasurable activity. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

So to answer the question, “Is premarital sex sinful?” the Biblical answer is, “Yes. Sexual activity outside the confines of marriage is sin.”

 


Notes:

1. πορνεία [porneia /por·ni·ah/] n f. From 4203; TDNT 6:579; TDNTA 918; GK 4518; 26 occurrences; AV translates as “fornication” 26 times. 1 illicit sexual intercourse. 1A adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc. 1B sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18. 1C sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12. (Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 2001 : n. pag. Print.)

 

2. Later Judaism shows how the use of porneía broadens out to include not only fornication or adultery but incest, sodomy, unlawful marriage, and sexual intercourse in general. (Kittel, Gerhard, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 1985 : 919. Print.)

 

3. πορνεύω [porneuo /porn·yoo·o/] v. From 4204; TDNT 6:579; TDNTA 918; GK 4519; Eight occurrences; AV translates as “commit fornication” seven times, and “commit” once. 1 to prostitute one’s body to the lust of another. 2 to give one’s self to unlawful sexual intercourse. 2A to commit fornication. (Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 2001 : n. pag. Print.)

 

4. ἀσέλγεια (sensuality/licentiousness)

In some languages the equivalent of ‘licentious behavior’ would be ‘to live like a dog’ or ‘to act like a goat’ or ‘to be a rooster,’ in each instance pertaining to promiscuous sexual behavior. (Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains 1996 : 770.)

 

New Testament Prescriptions Regarding “Fornication”

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (Galatians 5:19 ESV)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV)

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV)

 

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The Gettysburg Address: “Under God” or Not?

Today marks 150 years since Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. Throughout the day, I have seen several posts on Facebook debating the question, “Was ‘under God’ used by Lincoln?” It appears that there are several versions of the Address and not all of them agree on the “under God” part. In addition to the versions of the speech, there were news reports as well that included the Address. I responded to a friend with a link and he responded with another link.

As stated in the Wikipedia article linked above,

Every stenographic report [the reporters who telegraphed their notes], good, bad and indifferent, says ‘that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.’ There was no common source from which all the reporters could have obtained those words but from Lincoln’s own lips at the time of delivery. It will not do to say that [Secretary of War] Stanton suggested those words after Lincoln’s return to Washington, for the words were telegraphed by at least three reporters on the afternoon of the delivery.

Obviously, the three agreeing eyewitness accounts, who telegraphed Lincoln’s spoken speech, validate the “later copies”, thus validating the “under God” reference as being “autograph” material.

Why have I gone into such detail? It comes down to how ideas are communicated through multiple copies. And this relates to the Bible’s manuscripts. Not all of the manuscripts agree on word, though there are no doctrinal discrepancies among the 26,000+ New Testament manuscripts and fragments.

We do not have the “original” manuscripts of the NT. However, as we compare the manuscripts we do have with the writings of the early Church Fathers, we can recreate the “original” manuscripts with a very high degree of accuracy.

There are individuals and organizations (such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation), who seek to rewrite American history with their agnostic/atheistic/secularist biases, claiming to be “unbiased”. There are also individuals and organizations who seek to rewrite Biblical history with their agnostic/atheistic/secularist biases, again claiming to be “unbiased”. We all have biases and we should acknowledge them to ourselves and to others.

 

Now, getting back to the Gettysburg Address…

As I learned in Speech class many years ago, there are three speeches:
1- The one that the speaker prepares.
2- The one that the audience hears.
3- The one that is reported.

In the case of the Gettysburg Address, “under God” qualifies as at least two of those. So yes, I believe we can confidently say that Lincoln included “under God” on that fateful day.

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Was it a Good Day or a Bad Day in Court?

Today was either a very good day or a very bad day to be a US Citizen. If you are for “marriage equality” for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered (LGBT), today was a very good day for you.

If, however, you are for traditional “one-man, one-woman marriage”, today was a very bad day for you.

Two very important decisions were handed down by the US Supreme Court today: the Federal DOMA and California’s Proposition 8.

 

Federal DOMA

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Federal Government cannot grant special privileges to one group (traditional marriage) over another group (LGBT). Tax credits and other Federal benefits given to traditionally married couples must be granted to LGBT couples as well.

The Federal DOMA was signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton in an effort to define marriage in the traditional sense. The Court stated today that those who would limit Federal benefits to one group and not another were doing so in an effort to inflict punishment on the other group. In other words, those who supported DOMA — including Clinton – were bigoted and punitive against those who supported “non-traditional” marriage. Perhaps the Court was correct.

Civil Liberty is a sticky issue.

A few years ago, some groups disapproved allowing religious groups to use public school facilities after school hours and on the weekends. A doctrine of “equal access” was adopted which said that if any one group was allowed access (YMCA, Boy/Girl Scouts), then all other groups also have access. The other side of the same coin said that if one group was prohibited from accessing the school facilities, then all groups would be prohibited from using the facilities.

In a free society, I am protected to be able to practice my religious beliefs according to my personal convictions. At the same time, someone who holds the exact opposite religious beliefs from mine is also protected to practice their religious beliefs according to their personal convictions. That’s the way liberty works. Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants are all free to practice our religious (and non-religious) beliefs. Giving preferential treatment to one group over and against another group violates the “no establishment of religion and the free exercise thereof” parts of the First Amendment. If it applies for one group, it should be applied in the same way to all the other groups.

When the Parker County Ministerial Alliance requested that the Weatherford City Council start with pledges to the US and Texas Flags and an invocation, there was great caution on the part of the Council. They were afraid that at some point in the future the City might have to use taxpayer funds to defend against lawsuits from groups claiming a violation of “separation of church and state”. Their approval could have gone one of two ways:

1 – Having a designated person to pray “nonsectarian” prayers (presumably to a nonsectarian god?).

2 – Allowing a diversity of persons to pray according to their own religious tradition (including praying “in Jesus’ name” for those who chose to do so).

The Council allowed the Ministerial Alliance to coordinate the invocation pray-ers with option 2. The Alliance has done an honest job of being “inclusive” of leaders of respective groups in the community, even inviting religious leaders who are not affiliated with the Alliance.

 

California’s Proposition 8

The second decision handed down by the Supreme Court had to do with California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 was an amendment to California’s Constitution which defined marriage for the State of California; it was California’s version of the Federal DOMA that applied to just the State of California to protect it in case the Federal Government nationally legalized “nontraditional” marriage. The Court struck down Prop 8, saying that marriage cannot be limited to one-man one-woman couples. However, they also stated that a LGBT couple whose marriage was recognized in one state does not necessarily have to be recognized in any other state.

 

My Take on the Decisions

I am not a lawyer, nor am I a Constitutional Scholar. However, I am a citizen of the United States whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War of independence against tyranny. I am also a pastor. And these Supreme Court Decisions affect me. They affect all of us.

What we saw today is a display of man’s depravity. What we saw was the natural consequence of putting our ultimate decisions in the hands of nine fallen men and women (the “highest court in the land”).

When a nation turns its back on its original principles and reads its founding documents as “fluid documents”, open to new interpretation of each new generation, anything is up for grabs. Literally anything. LGBT today … LGBTP (pedophilia) tomorrow?

We see a very similar situation in churches that turn their backs on their original principles, where Christians view our founding Document as a fluid document, open to new interpretations of each new generation.

I’m not just talking about the “liberal” churches. I’m also talking about the “conservative” churches. We have all – in our own way – turned out backs on our original principles of reaching a lost and dying world with the hope of the Gospel as it is revealed in the Bible.

The “liberals” have done it by rejecting the Bible as a static document of God’s revelation and authority. They argue that the Bible is outdated and needs to be reinterpreted for the changing culture. They see LGBT as a new situational ethic to be interpreted according to the “love of Christ” without any judgment on the LGBT lifestyle (because the Bible is outdated, remember?).

The “conservatives” have done it by not reaching the lost and dying world. Somehow, we expect lost to find their way to us (even though the Bible clearly says that no one is righteous and no one seeks after God on their own. We have failed to “contextualize” the unchanging Gospel as revealed in the Bible and actually dialog with lost and dying people. We run from Christian huddle to Christian huddle preaching against the evils of abortion and homosexuality. But when was the last time we talked with an unwed teen, offering her viable options for carrying her baby to term (Who’s going to pay for her medical bills?)? Or when was the last time we sat down with a LGBTQ* friend or coworker about his/her struggles for acceptance (regardless of what acceptance he or she may be struggling with)?

Our only hope is for the church to be the church: repent and return to the God on Whose principles and Document our faith was founded. Only then will we have any hope for hope and the blessing that we once enjoyed as a church and as a nation.

So was it a good day or a bad day in Court? Regardless of your views of traditional vs. nontraditional marriage, today was a bad day in Court. It revealed our depravity. The depravity of all of us.

 

 

*LGBTQ is a relatively new designation that includes those who are questioning their sexual identity.