Dove Wars

Doves are gentle things. Their cooing is restful and wistful. No wonder they are symbols of peace and love. But why must they build their nests above the entry-way to my home? Is nature’s housing so deficient that they must intrude on man-made nooks, never intended to be bird residences? Like intrusive condominium neighbors, who enjoy the benefits of their own domicile while neglecting the shared maintenance of common areas, these lovely birds think nothing of where they poop, which I suppose is natural. 

Supposedly, that is because birds don’t think — at least insofar as a bird brain doesn’t quite have the capacity to reason as I do. But does our God-ordained dominion over them mean that I must clean up after them? In addition to forgiving those little trespassers, are we required to clean up their droppings?

Relying on the premise that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I have tried several methods of trying to prevent the doves from getting started on their nest-building in the first place. I tried hanging up colorful, metallic decorations of an apparent Chinese design. But those didn’t work. I tried putting out fans that twirled in the breeze. Neither did they do the job. The doves seemed to study them for a while before deciding they were simply harmless decorations. I still had to go out and physically shoo them away. They would fly to the building across the way and sit on the roof, watching and waiting for me to go back inside so they could resume their nest-building activities.

I even tried throwing seed pods at them that fell off the trees in the yard. But of course, that never fazed them. I’m a lousy shot but I was desperate. When I calmed down, I did a search on the internet and discovered these electronic devices that produce high-pitched sounds that keep various pests away … including birds. “Ah!”, I thought, “Technology!” So, I ordered one and eagerly awaited its arrival.

When it came, I put the batteries in and mounted it on the wall above our front door. It had knobs for adjusting the pitch and range of the sounds, so when the doves seemed to be ignoring it, like they had everything else, I just readjusted it, trusting that I would eventually find the “sweet spot” that would permanently keep the avian invaders away. But no matter how I adjusted it, it only seemed to work for a short while. Eventually the doves always seemed to get so used to it they just ignored it.

Then one day, in one of those rare moments in which the right synapses create a brilliant connection, I noticed a very furry cat puppet I had given my wife as a gift. It had been lying dormant in the bedroom for who knows how long, and was covered in a fine layer of baby powder. Picking it up and shaking off the powder, I thought to myself, surely this thing looks enough like a real cat to scare off those doves! It was truly an “Ahah!” moment.

The cat puppet was the best deterrent yet. My neighbors got a kick out it when they saw what they thought at first was a real cat sunning itself on our railing. It was quite a conversation piece and seemed to delight everyone. But the thing is, none of my neighbors seemed to be having the same problem I was having with doves nesting in their eaves. I wondered, “Why me?”. Why my eaves but not my neighbors’? I guess it’s just one of those mysteries of life.

For some time now, when I hear the doves out there, I take a look, and if I see the doves trying to settle in, I put the cat out. That usually is a daily routine in the Spring time of year. But this Spring the weather has been inconsistent — sometimes warm, sometimes cool — so there hasn’t been much dove activity and I haven’t been putting the cat out much. I wasn’t really expecting them this morning when I heard the tell-tale sounds of nesting doves. I also wasn’t fully aware. I had just gotten out of bed, sill in my pajamas, blowing my nose and beginning to think I might need to take an antihistamine. 

Thusly disoriented, I opened my front door and observed two doves in the eaves, acting as if they owned the penthouse they had just commandeered and that I was the interloper. As I came out, the larger bird left right away. But the smaller one (the female) held her ground and looked at me with possessive distress as I waved my arms at her, trying to get her to follow her mate’s example. 

When my waving arms came close enough to convince her to leave, she also flew away. But instead of following the male, she took evasive action behind me and flew right through my open door! Oh no! I was stunned.

I quickly followed her in, wondering how in the world I would ever get her out. She immediately tried to fly through the sliding glass doors that open onto the deck. The problem is, they were closed. She fell to the floor and continued to throw herself against the glass pane that blocked her escape to freedom.

We have a vaulted ceiling and had she chosen to fly up I never would have been able to help her, so I walked slowly toward her as she frantically tried to pass through the unseen barrier. I tried speaking to her in the most comforting voice I could manage and told her in English to calm down and I would try to help her. Even though there’s no real way to communicate a concept like that to a bird, it was all I could think of. 

As I got to the door and slowly began to slide it open, and then open the screen, the little bird was still fluttering against the glass in a desperate attempt to flee. I had to gently herd her to the open part and as soon as she was in that open space, she took off like a shot — apparently none the worse off for her experience.

I, on the other hand, was left with the task of cleaning up where she had pooped on the carpet, in front of the sliding glass door. And since I was the one who had scared it out of her, I didn’t feel too put out. I was just glad the bird was safely outside where she belongs.

Like I said, I don’t really have anything against doves. I just don’t like them pooping on my property. 

The moral of this story is that everyone has their own opinion, and sometimes we can’t help bothering each other with our differences. But the most important thing is that when we feel trapped and just can’t see a way out — that’s when we need to stop flailing about and put our trust in the LORD. He’ll always make a way…maybe not a way that we can figure out, but it will be his way.

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Posted in Just a thought | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Talking “Politics”

There’s a tacit taboo that says, “Never discuss politics or religion in polite society.” I wish I knew who started that. I’d tell them they were wrong. First of all, as a Bible-believing Christian, there’s nothing I’d like to talk about more than my faith. But in order to do so freely, I have to be among Christians. Otherwise, the conversation usually gets very quiet real fast.

I attend a weekly home group of folks from my church. We meet together for Bible study, fellowship and prayer. As usual for such groups, any personal concerns shared in the group are considered confidential and kept in the group. One reason for this is that it creates a safe environment for everyone to be as candid as they wish, creating a relationship of trust among brothers and sisters in Christ.

Recently we were talking about the release of the three hostages who had been held as prisoners in North Korea. As one individual was lamenting the negative attacks on President Trump by the news media, another member of the group smiled uneasily and said, “We shouldn’t be talking politics”. I affirmed what the first individual had said by agreeing it was true. And I wondered why — if we are to have close, meaningful and confidential sharing — why should “politics” be a taboo subject? 

By and large, the media has been more than unfair to President Trump. They have continued to “resist” Trump and have become part of the “dump Trump” movement. This is not a matter of “politics”. It is a concerted effort to destroy the President and his administration and effectively nullify our properly elected government. It’s really an attack on America. 

It isn’t “politics” that drives “fake news”, but a palpable hatred of Trump — hatred that feeds on outright lies and a willing ignorance of the truth. That bears repeating. The media has shown little concern for reporting facts. Instead, they have turned to reporting lies that support their agenda to sway public opinion and go along with a distorted fantasy they are trying to project. 

Unrelenting attacks on Trump and his supporters have not just been coming from “political” enemies. They’ve also been coming from unelected bureaucrats, particularly in the FBI, the Justice Department and the State Department. These are not politicians and are not supposed to be pushing any agenda. They are appointed bureaucrats who are supposedly “public servants” directly under the chief government administrator — none other than the President of the United States. Their job is to work for him, not try to undermine him at the behest of his political opponents. 

And yet, that is exactly what several of them (in leadership roles) have been doing, in violation of ethics, laws and the scope of their authority.  The constitution does not lay out a design in which loyalty to any political party justifies the undermining of the proper functions of government. But in America today, that is precisely what is happening. 

The Democrats funded a dossier on Trump which the FBI convinced a FISA court to use to justify a surveillance warrant on the Trump campaign. This entire process violated every ethical and legal standard of open and constitutional government. Just as an example, from The Federalist:

“5 Things The FBI Never Told The FISA Court About The Trump Dossier”:

1.  The dossier was funded by Hillary Clinton and The Democratic National Committee.

2.  The FBI terminated Steele as a source for “what the FBI defines as the most serious of        violations.”

3.  The dossier had not been independently verified.

4.  A news story purporting to corroborate the dossier actually came directly from the dossier.

5.   Some of the information provided to the court came from a senior DOJ official’s wife, who was getting paid by the Clinton campaign’s opposition research firm.

After more than a year of this “trumped-up” (pun intended) investigation, absolutely no evidence has been found to show any collusion. The accusations were all false — all lies intended to destroy Trump. But it is not over. It’s just the tip of a gigantic iceberg. New lies, accusations and innuendos are coming out of the media every day. This goes far beyond “politics”.

What can I do about it?

At the very least, Christians should be able to talk to one another about this, not just smile, act nice and pretend it will all go away. More importantly, Christians should be praying for those in authority over us, as the Bible instructs. Good or bad, they need our prayers because those in positions of authority have a fiduciary responsibility to God. 

Read Romans 13:1-7. When anyone in authority abuses that authority they are not being God’s servant for our good (verse 4) thus they are not owed honor or respect (verse 7). Those in authority over us only deserve our honor and respect to the degree that they reflect God’s standards as his ministers (verse 6). An excellent book that explains this passage is ROMANS 13, The True Meaning of Submission by Timothy and Chuck Baldwin.

When I see policies and laws being enacted, particularly here in California by our radical, ungodly, unrighteous and anti-Biblical government, I am reminded of the shepherds of ancient Israel who led their people astray and brought judgement upon the whole nation. Jude 1:12 mentions shepherds who are only concerned with feeding themselves, a theme from Ezekiel 34:2-10. God tells the shepherds if they do not properly care for their flocks he will hold them accountable and remove them from their positions of authority. 

We live in a self-governing republic, which means we are responsible for the leaders we elect. And ultimately, even those in appointed positions are accountable to the electorate. They are here to serve us, not lord their authority over us. Jesus said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.” (Luke 22:25) But our nation isn’t a kingdom, and we don’t have a king. Instead, we have a people who are constitutionally supposed to be governing themselves. We aren’t supposed to have a ruling class over us as “benefactors”. 

Ultimately, in our country, the people are sovereign. That means we are responsible for what our leaders do. If they are leading us unrighteously, causing us to uphold that which is evil and suppress that which is righteous, then it is our solemn duty before God to vote those leaders out of office and replace them with leaders who at least try to honor God. If those in authority over us are turning our nation into one, huge Sodom and Gomorrah, and we don’t do anything about it, then we deserve the same judgments ancient Israel suffered when their nation’s leaders led them astray.

A right and proper, godly attitude for Christians in America means taking our duties of citizenship seriously. Yes, we need to vote. Yes, we need to tell our representatives how we feel about various issues. Yes, we need to sign petitions, run for offices and serve as public servants. And absolutely we need to pray for those in authority over us. 

But can we do one more thing? Can we actually talk among ourselves about what we see happening in our country? Can we talk about the lying media without feeling embarrassed or shut down for “talking politics”? How can we honestly and openly talk to non-believers about faith in Jesus if we can’t talk among ourselves about what’s going on in our own nation? Do we love our brothers and sisters enough to do this? 

Posted in Christian Attitudes, Civil Conversation, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Will The Elect Be Deceived?

(Mark 13:22; 24:24)

 

Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”.  “My people” refers to God’s people. If you consider yourself one of God’s people, then you certainly don’t want to remain ignorant, because that would lead to your destruction, right? How’s your knowledge of Islam? Is your understanding based on factual evidence or are you satisfied with the politically correct mantra that Islam is the religion of peace, which should be tolerated and venerated as an honorable belief system and accorded every right and privilege within an open community of faith?

I invite you to listen to eight lectures given by Shahram Hadian, a former Muslim who is now a Christian pastor. If you’ve never heard of him, here is a brief bio. These lectures were delivered to the 2018 Chafer Theological Seminary Bible Conference in March. Perhaps his most important lectures are the last three, but to get the full impact of his message on Islam, I strongly urge all believers to watch each video. They are packed with vital information — all factual and documented.

I urge everyone to share this information with friends and family.  Let us not be destroyed for lack of knowledge!

1  An Apologetic Look at the Bible vs. the Quran

(Advance to 12 minutes, 30 seconds to skip past singing and other speakers)

2  Unveiling the True Face of Islam

(Advance to 27 minutes to skip over preceding service)

3  Sabotaging America: Islam’s March Towards Supremacy (Muslim           Brotherhood Strategy) 

Al Hijra: Islamic Migration and the Fraud of Refugee Resettlement

5  Islam’s Assault on the U.S. Constitution

6  The Trojan Horse of Interfaith Dialogue Between Christians & Muslims – Part 1 

7  The Trojan Horse of Interfaith Dialogue Between Christians & Muslims – Part 2

8  Fulfilling the Great Commission: Sharing Christ with Muslims

 

How Do You Reach a Muslim for Jesus Christ?

 

 

 

 

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Do Christians Condemn The LGTBQ Community?

(First published in 2015 under the title, “Why do you condemn us?”)

I’ve heard a lot of people say that Christians condemn others who don’t share their Biblical morals. When issues such as same-sex marriage are debated, a common accusation from homosexuals is that Christians condemn them. This charge has been leveled at us so often and for so long that many Christians opt to dance around Biblical doctrines, rather than actually give voice to them in public forums. Is it a fair or accurate statement to say that Biblical Christians condemn those who characteristically practice sin?

The essence of Christianity is the message of the Gospel, a word that simply means “good news”. This message was called good news by the angel who announced the birth of Christ (Luke 2:10). Announcing the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies concerning the coming of the Jewish Messiah, the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” meaning this good news was for everyone, not just the Jews.

But the Jews best understood what this good news meant, because the Hebrew Bible had preserved for them the teachings that our sinfulness separates us from God, making us subject to his judgement, and that without atonement for sin we already stand condemned. For over a thousand years the Jews had tried and failed to live according to God’s commandments. As a people, they had learned the hard way that without God’s supernatural intervention, it is impossible to be saved from the consequences of sin. That is why the angel called the Messiah a “Savior”, because he came to save his people. The name “Jesus” literally means salvation, and that is why Christians say they are “saved”.

Christians are saved from the consequences of sin as a result of “receiving” Christ and his sacrifice (“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” — John 1:12). This is not the result of anything we do. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy,” (Titus 3:5); “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8).

What makes this good news is that we were already condemned and dead in our sins, but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ atoned for those sins, paid the price for those sins and redeemed us from the dead, into eternal life in the presence of the Almighty. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8).

This is all to say that the message of salvation in Christ is good news for everyone. So where does the idea of condemnation enter into the picture? Mark 16:16 says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” A backlash is often heard that goes something like this: “You Christians claim to believe in a loving God and yet you condemn those who disagree with you. You aren’t loving. You are hateful, bigoted and condemning.”

This backlash comes from the basic misconception that is best compared to, “Love me, love my dog”. An onus is being placed on Christians, not unlike being expected to love a bad dog simply because it is owned by someone you love. Homosexuals expect Christians to accept their homosexual behavior, despite the fact that the Bible calls it sin. The expectation being placed on Christians is that if we claim to love homosexuals, we should accept, tolerate, or at least not “judge” their behavior. If we really love them, then it is expected we should stay silent about how they live.

We are told by an increasingly secular society that making absolute moral distinctions based on a Biblical world view is ignorant, narrow-minded and unacceptable, that truth and morality are not absolute or exclusive, but relative and inclusive. This point of view rejects the fact that God himself has drawn a line of demarcation, separating that which is righteous, moral and holy from that which is sinful, immoral and unholy. So, when Christians speak out against homosexuality, those standing on the other side of the line only hear condemnation. “Thus saith the LORD” is taken as code meaning, “I have the right to force my beliefs on you”.

Those who approach reality from a secular world view reject the notion that God exists. And those who are merely influenced by secular world views reject the authority of any God and reject the Bible as an authoritative source for determining society’s moral standards. Nevertheless, the Christian faith stands outside the world of secular values and is not subject to secular world view standards. Our faith is subject only to Biblical world view standards. We cannot try to be “tolerant” by jettisoning our Biblical world view. Our words and our actions must be consistent with what the Bible says, not what the world says.

God has drawn a line between light and darkness, life and death. On one side stands truth and forgiveness. On the other, lies and condemnation. Condemnation doesn’t come from the gospel. It comes from believing lies. And perhaps the biggest lie is that sin isn’t really sin at all. It’ like the lie the serpent whispered in Eve’s ear in Genesis 3:1, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” meaning, did God actually say that is a sin?

Right now there are people thinking that the serpent didn’t lie, he only asked a question. But his question was not designed to elicit an answer, rather to sow doubt and disbelief in Eve’s mind. Of course God said that. The serpent was well aware of that. But he knew how to weaken Eve, so that she would fall into temptation and sin. Today, anti-Biblical apologists are equally sly. They “ask,” “Does the Bible really say that?”, playing on the weaknesses of the uninformed.

To me, the absolute separation of moral from immoral is best pictured as the difference between light and darkness. Here, there are no shades of grey. Even the light of a single candle dispels the darkness. John 1:5 puts it this way, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Equally opposite in polarity are the consequences of morality vs immorality. Light leads to life; darkness leads to death. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And Jesus is willing to forgive all who turn back from darkness to follow him, as Ephesians 5:8 points out, “…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

Just as there is an absolute separation between light and darkness, so also there is an absolute separation of God’s judgement for those who walk in the light from those who walk in darkness. “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:32-33; 42; 46). There is no third option, no situational relativity. It’s either life or death.

Biblical morality looks to no less than the authority of the Creator of the universe. It is not based on popular thought or democratic deliberation. It is based on obedience to God’s standards. Thus Christians and the Bible, following God’s example, condemn sin, not people. Those who feel condemned are those who reject the absolute line between right and wrong, or the authority or existence of God who draws that line. And to those who are condemned, Jesus offers salvation. All they have to do is turn to him and forsake their former sins.

“And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge [NIV: condemn] him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.’” — John 12:44-50 (ESV)

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Let’s Have A Conversation

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

Billy Graham said, “Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening.” It is my conviction that this is the single most important issue of our time. Jesus Christ can redeem anyone. No matter how bad you’ve lived your life so far, he will change you, if you let him. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

The yammering we hear on TV (euphemistically called a “conversation”) about preventing future school massacres only focuses on what government can do about controlling guns and improving mental health awareness. Neither of these issues go to the heart of what causes a person to commit murder, which Christians know to be the sinfulness of human nature.

But government cannot prevent sinful behavior. It can only respond to it by meting out appropriate consequences for unlawful behavior. Even the most repressive of human governments will never be able to prevent sin, because governments cannot change the human heart. Only Jesus Christ can do that.

In 1962 the Supreme Court ruled that prayer was not to be conducted in public schools. This decision was based on a perversion of the concept of the “separation of church and state”, and it needs to be overturned. Separation of church and state always meant to protect churches from government intrusion, not to insulate government from the influence of the Christian faith. So, for the Federal government to say Christians may not pray or otherwise express their faith in government-funded settings is a perversion of the doctrine of separation of church and state.

The “conversation” about Jesus Christ has been taken out of our schools, replacing faith with godlessness and producing more mass murders on school campuses. According to American Family Radio, who compiled statistics from a variety of sources, including the FBI and CDC, between 1900 and 1960, when prayer and Bible study were common in public schools, there were 62 deaths from school shootings. Between 1960 and 2017 we had 479 gun-related deaths in our schools.

Before God was removed from our schools, the average yearly death toll from shootings was slightly more than one person. From two years before the Supreme Court’s 1962 decision until last year (2017), the average yearly death toll from school shootings shot up to significantly more than eight persons — an incredible 800+% increase. And 2018 has gotten off to an even more tragic start. Isn’t that significant enough to have a “conversation” about? Isn’t it time we talked openly and boldly about Jesus in our schools?

Don’t you think it’s time for an honest “conversation” about the violence we are seeing in our society, especially in our schools? Can we honestly say we care about innocent victims when all we are willing to do is make a political football of this human tragedy? Does it make sense to focus on the symptoms of our broken society, expecting more government control and additional funding to fix it, without getting to the real cause? Do we honestly believe that throwing money at our problems will make them go away? Or shall we have a “conversation” about Jesus?

It’s time to fight for the restoration of prayer and Bible study in our public schools. It’s time to let Jesus back into our schools. It’s time to have a real “conversation” — one that isn’t framed and dictated by those who want to suppress the truth. America was fashioned with a Christian populace in mind. As a nation we can neither succeed nor survive without first teaching all our students the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And as we enter into this “conversation”, there is no need for us to be rancorous. Think about what Billy Graham did. He won people to Christ because he loved them. His love was genuine. He won people to Christ because he was humble and let the Spirit of the Living God work through him. He spoke the truth in love and grew up into him who is the head, into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Is this a radical idea? Not really. If you examine our founding documents, this nation was created to foster religious freedom, not restrict it or control it. The very fabric of the structure of our government was designed for a godly, Bible-based electorate to freely assume the responsibility of governing themselves. Christians have every historical, legal and moral right to publicly share our faith.

If you think it’s right to pray for boldness to proclaim the gospel, then let’s begin by returning prayer to our schools. And if you think this is somehow irrelevant to the safety of students, answer this: If nothing is more precious than life, then could anything be more precious than eternal life? Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Let Jesus back into our schools. He died that the whole world may choose life. He loves everyone that much. He doesn’t make demands or force anyone. He wants to set everyone free. There is no good reason for us to allow a few God-haters to shut down real “conversation”.

Posted in Christian Faith, freedom of religion, gun control, Prayer, The gospel of salvation in Christ | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Spiritual Song And Dance

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. I wasn’t feeling very well, so I turned on the TV and started watching an old Red Skelton movie – a musical comedy from 1942 called Ship Ahoy. Headlining a cast of stars and future stars (including Frank Sinatra) Eleanor Powell played Red Skelton’s romantic interest. Several scenes showcased her tap-dancing brilliance. In one number, drummer Buddy Rich (of the Tommy Dorsey orchestra) is playing a drum held by Eleanor Powell, who coyly moves it around as she dances with it. At one point, Buddy throws one of his drumsticks down on the floor. Eleanor catches it on the bounce, tosses it and the drum back to Buddy, turns and catches two new drumsticks tossed to her from off camera and proceeds to play the drum with Buddy – all this while dancing!

This display of talent made me want to learn more about Eleanor Powell. Her bio on IMDB says she was married to Glenn Ford and divorced him because of “mental cruelty”. The cruelty may have been that her career ended after they married – I don’t know. If so, what a waste. Later in life she became a minister in the Unity Church. Curious, I checked IMDB for Glenn Ford and noticed that he wished to be remembered as, “He did his best and he believed in God.”

I am in no position, nor do I have the right to judge either Glenn Ford or Eleanor Powell. But I wondered what it was about Unity that appealed to the one-time dancing star. So, I checked out the website of a local Unity church to see what they believe. The opening sentence in their “What is Unity?” article reads, “Unity offers a positive, practical approach to spirituality and daily living.” In other words, if you look to incorporate “spirituality” in your lifestyle, Unity is a positive and practical way to do that.

Well, that’s all gobbledygook to genuine truth seekers. Obviously, Unity has nothing to do with truth and doesn’t appeal to someone who wants to know the truth. You can try to add a dimension of “spirituality” to your life to feel more balanced or well-rounded, but that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with truth.

Critical in understanding Unity is how one defines “spirituality”. Whatever is spiritual is of the spirit. So, the question is, what is spirit? Let’s begin by saying what spirit is not. Spirit is not intellect, though intellect loves to delve into its mysteries. Spirit is not emotion, though emotion often gets caught up in its reactions to spiritual experiences. Spirit is not beauty, though beauty can certainly describe some spiritual phenomena. Spirit is not ethics, though we give ethics a spiritual origin, just as to meaning, morality, principle and every other virtue we recognize as giving value to life.

Spirituality is something a whole lot bigger and different from all those things. The spiritual realm is an entire reality that can only be partially understood and expressed within the physical realm. It is a mistake to think of spirituality as something you add to your lifestyle, as if it were simply another ingredient in your recipe for success and happiness. It is also a mistake to think that a religion that offers a “positive and practical approach to spirituality” has any idea of what spiritual reality is.

A so-called “positive” approach to spirituality ignores half of all spiritual reality. Spirituality is not all good. There are good spirits and there are evil spirits. And before I go any further, let me be clear. If you do not believe in spirits, then you cannot believe in “spirituality”. If there are no spirits, nothing can be said to be “spiritual”.

Equally, the concept of a “practical” approach to spirituality reduces spirituality to things we do, what we can accomplish – as we would in the physical realm – sweeping aside the things of the spirit. Unity is a feel-good religion that begins with false assumptions about what it means to be spiritual.

But to a person who wants to know the truth, Unity will be a big disappointment. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “The Father” is God the Father. He also said, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). He is our Creator and has ultimate Authority over all things spiritual. The most significant thing any human being can do is “come to the Father”. And the only way to do that is through Jesus. That’s what the Bible says.

It is sin that makes this spiritual journey difficult. Jesus paid the price for our sin, but our pride makes it difficult for us to admit our guilt, confess our sin and accept his forgiveness. It’s not as simple as being positive and practical. There are some negatives that need to be addressed, and there is nothing we can do but humbly receive Jesus Christ in faith, then walk obediently in him.

C. S. Lewis said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

That’s because true Christianity is real spirituality. It faces the negative while seeking the positive. It’s not just a religion. It gives you a relationship to God the Father through Jesus his Son. That relationship is sealed with the Holy Spirit who lives in us (Ephesians 1:13). We become children of God (1 John 3:1), citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) and receive eternal life (Romans 6:23).

These are all theological concepts that describe the “spirituality” that Christianity offers. It boils down to God’s solution for lifting us out of the pit of spiritual darkness into his spacious glory and righteousness. You cannot get there by a positive, practical approach. Only faith can take you there – faith in Jesus. He died for everyone – all of us – that we might live in him.

If you don’t care what it says in the Bible, if you think it can mean anything you want it to mean or that it’s all made up anyway, then satisfy your own objections and read it. See for yourself whether or not your presumptions about it are true. The fact is that Scripture is powerful. It has the ability to lead you to the truth and set you free. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

If you are open to discover what the Bible actually teaches, but you don’t have the time to invest in your own scholarly research, go to https://thebibleproject.com/explore/ which has links to brief, illustrated descriptions of the structure and content of each book of the Bible. Each one has a short video that provides an overview using helpful illustrations. Later, when you actually read each book, you will more easily make sense of it in context with the rest of Scripture.

If you are serious about proving or disproving the truth of the Bible, start at Genesis and go all the way through it. But if you are the impatient type, watch the video of any book to see what’s in it. Most videos are less than 10 minutes long. The larger books use multiple videos, breaking each study into short, easy segments.

If you are dead-set against actually reading what Scripture says, how can you call yourself honest when you say you want to know the truth? There is only one way to know the truth. You have to actually examine it

Please don’t think I am just taking pot shots at the Unity Church. There are no religions that can equal the spirituality of leading a person to God. Religion per se will not bring you to God. Only Jesus can do that. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” How many of the most religious among us, if we are honest, are unstained from the world?

Perhaps it’s time to put religion on the back burner and think about the spiritual reality of a relationship with God.

[An afterthought] I neglected to mention love. Just as spirituality is often misunderstood, so is love. Love is much more than a feeling, much more than doing the right thing, and doesn’t have its origin in the heart of Man.  Scripture not only tells us that we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19), but that God himself is love (1 John 4:8). So, if you really want to be loving, you need to get beyond yourself and know God.

Posted in Bible, Religion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shooter, Or The Gun?

For the past couple of days I’ve been emotionally stunned, disrupted by the madness of the Las Vegas massacre. I made the mistake of watching the news this morning while drinking my cup of coffee. Gun control zealots have now jumped on this tragedy, as they always do, as a springboard to dictate their own brand of madness, supposedly to deal with the threat of firearm violence.

It’s madness because legal restrictions to gun access for normal citizens don’t make us safer. They only make it more difficult to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and put us even more at the mercy of those who aren’t law-biding and will obtain whatever weapons they want to, despite the law. It’s madness because as we have seen, when gun ownership is stringently controlled, there are plenty of other options to choose from: knives, home-made bombs, driving vehicles into crowds, the use of toxins and poison gasses, anthrax spores — There is no limit to human creativity, even in the mind of a mass murderer.

The relative effectiveness of gun control can be illustrated by looking at the very first murder. Genesis 4:8 tells us that Cain “rose up against his brother Abel and killed him”. It doesn’t say how. He may have used his bare hands. As they were in “the field”, he may have used a stone or an implement. Applying gun-control mentality to this case, all farm implements and all stones would have to be registered and strictly accounted for. If it was known that Cain’s weapon was his own hand, their solution would be to cut it off.

While such a cruel punishment would certainly prevent future killings by the same means, if Cain really wanted to kill someone else bad enough, he could always train himself to become a lethal kicker and simply use his foot the next time. It is interesting to note that God’s punishment of Cain was protected banishment, marking him so that others would not take vengeance on him (Genesis 4:12-16).

The point is that the murder of innocent people cannot be prevented, reduced or controlled by restricting access to weapons. Murder is a sin that begins in the heart. Once it has taken hold, a murderer will use whatever means and whatever instrumentality he can devise to bring his plans to fruition. Gun control laws will never prevent tragedies like the Las Vegas massacre.

On the other hand, gun control laws do make it more difficult for every-day citizens to protect themselves — a God-given right enshrined in the 2nd amendment of our Constitution.

An informative article that uses statistics to put things in perspective: https://www.facebook.com/tednugent/posts/10154772622887297

Posted in Freedom, gun control, Violence | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sock ’em In The Face?

Back in July 8, 2012 Jeremy N. Choate wrote an essay entitled, “Dear Liberal…Here’s Why I’m So Hostile”. You can read it at http://sufficient-reason.tumblr.com/post/26781491317/dear-liberalheres-why-im-so-hostile

On the up side, this is a well-written and well-reasoned essay. But on the down side, who reads essays any more? Who reasons out controversies any more? Who bothers any more to become enlightened, to investigate the facts, engage in their discovery, weigh their consequences and share what they’ve learned? Seems like precious few.

Our “culture”, if you want to call it that, is in an intellectual slump. The market place of ideas is in the midst of a depression. Considering all the sophisticated communication technology available to us, there is little real connection between the Left and the Right. The connection that does exist has more characteristics of a gang war than a meaningful exchange of ideas. Rather than discussing differences with the idea of reaching a fuller understanding, we use rhetoric that leads to violence. We start by shouting at one another and end up throwing stones — and worse.

Rational debate seems to have been abandoned by most of us. Even in institutions of so-called “higher learning”, the solution to controversy is now seen as the gagging of “offensive” speech, rather than respecting and honoring free speech. A significant portion of society has given up on the goal of intellectual freedom, the free-flow of ideas and freedom of conscience. In its place stands an abomination of desolation called political correctness — a monument resting on the premise, “some animals are more equal than others”.

I used to believe that it was possible to win people over to your side by using superior argument, presenting facts, respecting history and aspiring to moral and principled goals. But experience demonstrates that such a scenario is impossible when your opponent consistently chooses to call you names and mischaracterize your position, rather than actually engaging in the merits of your argument.

I have long considered William F. Buckley Jr. to be the finest proponent of conservatism. I particularly consider his book, God & Man at Yale (1951), a seminal work which clearly drew the line of secularist philosophy that separated the progressive Left from the traditional Right. For half a century Buckley was recognized as one of the most articulate spokesmen for conservatism and considered by some to be the father of modern conservatism. But even he fell victim to relentless name-calling from the Left and their persistent twisting of his conservative positions.

Buckley made the mistake of debating Gore Vidal in an ABC series covering the 1968 Democratic convention. There was a long-standing antipathy between the two of them, being mirror images of each other in matters of politics and morality. Near the end of the debates, continuing in his pattern of using personal insults, Gore Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi”. By then Buckley had finally had it. He had been pushed as far as he could go. Completely losing his usual composure, he rose from his seat, pointed his finger at Vidal and said, “Listen to me you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.”

In losing his temper, Buckley was perceived as losing the “debate”. But in actuality Vidal had gutted the exchange of any real intellectual substance and pulled the level of their discourse down to name-calling and character assassination. Buckley had allowed himself to be pulled down to Vidal’s level. And maddened, as if by Chinese water torture, he lost the thin veneer of comity that civilization affords.

Had it occured in a recorded program, this incident would have been edited out, never to be seen by the public. But the program was live, for the whole world to see. The truly sad thing about this incident was that it boosted ABC’s ratings. Apparently, this was the kind of thing people wanted to see on a news show: something as satisfying as the thrill of a professional wrestling match or as entertaining as your favorite drama.

Because of that, news programs began using point/counterpoint segments where opponents would spew their arguments at each other without any real resolution of an issue. Their purpose was to rile up people into opposing camps, rather than to give background to stories or create an informed perspective. In the 49 years following the Buckley/Vidal exchange, this adversarial approach to the “news” has intensified political polarization and eroded our attitudes about how we should discuss our differences.

I myself have tried to make reasoned arguments for my conservative, traditional values, only to be responded to by voices of intolerance, name-calling, bullying and even threats of violence. These voices refuse to engage the substance of conservative arguments. They only want to discredit, malign and silence them. The more they mischaracterize conservatives the angrier I get, because meaningful discussion is impossible when everything you say is twisted into a lie designed to rouse anger and disgust against you.

I not only identify with the intellectual anger expressed by Jeremy N. Choate in his article above, but I identify with William F. Buckley’s threat to “sock [them] in the goddamn face”. Even the most reasonable person in the world can be pushed too far. So, in terms of “winning the debate”, I don’t see much hope in changing society’s views on subjects of morality. The opposition comes from a mindset that rejects the authority of God. The Left believes that the solution of humanity’s ills can be found in collective human efforts, and maximizing those efforts requires government leadership.

And so the Left is always looking for government programs to solve our problems. As Jeremy Choate’s article so clearly points out, the more government gets involved in solving everyone’s problems, the fewer freedoms individuals are allowed and the greater the tax burden becomes. The worst aspect of dependence upon big government is that people then tend to put their trust and reliance on government. And in that sense, the government usurps God’s role in our lives.

When people look to government for their salvation, then arguments about political issues become matters of faith. God and the Bible are then viewed as being in opposition to effective governmnet. In that significant sense, the argument between the Left and the Right hinges on how a person views God’s authority. To support homosexuality requires discarding what the word of God says about sin. To support gender selection requires throwing out the Biblical teaching that God created us male and female. The Left feels they can create themselves. They are their own gods. To support abortion requires the denial that an unborn child is a person whom God has created. It requires the rejection of Jeremiah 1:5 that tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. To believe that government knows best how our money should be spent to help the poor denies the Biblical principle of voluntary giving (Exodus 25:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

Frankly, there can be no compromise between the godly and the godless. They live in different worlds. There cannot be a meaningful discussion of political issues until there is agreement on what role God plays in the affairs of men. At the founding of our nation, Americans agreed on the Biblical world view and designed our government and laws to conform to that view. But as a nation, our world view has changed, taking our government and laws with it. American society has departed from its Biblical roots. It has become increasingly deaf to Biblical arguments. Secular society simply will not listen anymore. Not only that, but to a large degree they hate Christians and Christianity. In that sense, we have lost the argument.

The only thing left in our arsenal is to speak the truth of the gospel in a clear and gentle way. Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Exactly how that translates to how we address secular values in society today, I cannot say. But each of us must be ready to give an answer when we are asked to give reasons for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15-16). We are called to be witnesses, which is a verb — something we must do. We have to tell it like it is, straight from the heart. And just as our Savior was mocked, so will we. They will call us names, belittle us, threaten and attack. Still, we must love them enough to speak the truth in love.

The argument is lost. Perhaps it always was. All that is left is our testimony. Yet that is a powerful thing. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Lord, grant us the faith to obey you, and make disciples by sharing the gospel.

Posted in Conservative Christians, Debate, News Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

“Feed Me, Seymour!”

Anyone who’s seen Little Shop Of Horrors will recognize those words from the song of the mysterious potted plant named Audrey 2 that grew to a giant size on a diet of human flesh and blood. You can read the dialogue that leads up to the song and the lyrics at http://www.metrolyrics.com/feed-me-git-it-lyrics-little-shop-of-horrors.html

Audrey 2 is a selfish, manipulative plant from outer space that takes advantage of Seymour’s simple desire to help it flourish. It does everything to cajole Seymour into feeding him human beings. He whines like a dependent child, playing on Seymour’s sympathies. Audrey 2 entices Seymour with promises to make his every dream come true, but in reality this potted plant is a menacing threat, not worth Seymour’s slavish devotion.

As fans of the movie will tell you, there is something very laughable and entertaining about the character of Audrey 2, even though it eats people. This is dark humor, couched in science fiction. But humor and fiction cannot succeed without dramatizing something that is honest, true or real. There is something strangely real about the destructive self interests of this alien plant.

The line between comedy and tragedy is very thin. The very same elements that make people cry also make them laugh. It’s just a matter how those elements are presented. Why do we laugh at the tragedy of a man-eating plant? Because it represents qualities we have seen in actual people we have known.

There is a certain type of self-proclaiming Christian who attends church, makes friends, acts nice and blends in, like everyone else. You can’t spot them in a crowd. Their sole identifying mark is that at some point they leave the church, saying, “I’m just not being fed”. These aren’t new believers who really do need to be fed. They have been around for a while, but they do not stay. They only remain in a church as long as the church – usually the Pastor – is feeding and watering them, as if they were some potted plant.

I have seen so many of these potted church-goers that I am convinced they are sincere in their belief that they need to be fed. Yet they are sincerely wrong. They are stuck in a stage of development that is only appropriate for seedlings. But even seedlings aren’t supposed to remain in the nursery. At some point, they need to be taken out of their pots and placed in soil, where their roots can grow and they can feed themselves.

1 Corinthians 10:3 points out that all Israel “ate the same spiritual food”. This was the manna that God gave them. He also fed them meat, by bringing quail to them, not to mention the water he had Moses bring forth from a rock. So, Israel was being fed. Nevertheless, we read in verse 5 that God was not pleased with most of them and they were overthrown in the wilderness. This represents a serious spiritual dysfunction. God in fact provided them with what they needed to live, asking in return that they live according to his commands. But those Israelites who perished in the wilderness did not heed God’s commands. They only complained about what they were being fed.

For a Christian, the metaphor of being fed applies to new Christians who have been born again but still need to be discipled. How long should a Christian be discipled? In part it depends on their age and their ability to learn, but most importantly it depends on their personal devotion to the Lord and how much they want to grow. It is not the role of a church or pastor to continue to disciple everyone in the congregation indefinitely. All Christians have the responsibility to mature in Christ.

When a person first receives Christ, those who are more spiritually mature need to teach them what it means to be a Christian – how to live, how to grow. They need to be taught to pray, to serve, to fellowship, to worship, and they need to learn what the Bible says. Those are things we would call spiritual “feeding” for “babes in Christ”. They don’t know what they need, so believers who are more mature need to feed them.

As new believers grow, they (should) gradually learn to pray for themselves, serve by themselves, seek for themselves fellowship and worship with other Christians, and learn Scripture themselves by reading, meditating, studying and memorizing. Church is designed to supply opportunities for all these things.

But an important part of spiritual growth is learning to feed yourself so that you do not remain spiritually dependent upon others. Just as babies cannot feed themselves, but must be fed milk, children grow and learn to eat solid food and how to feed themselves. This is what is meant by Hebrews 5:12 when it says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” Those folks should have been feeding themselves, but were acting like spiritual babies.

And babies who grow from eating milk to eating solid food also grow from being held, to crawling and finally to walking. Christians are being childish and self-absorbed when they continue to expect to be fed long after they have had time to mature and learn to walk with the Lord. Spiritual maturity means you can’t spend your life as a potted plant needing constant feeding by someone else. Believers are not to remain babes in Christ. We are to grow up and learn to feed ourselves.

The church is the body of Christ. Our dependence should be upon the Head, not on our pastors or church leaders. What we have in the church body is loving, inter-dependent relationships with one another. And that is always (or should be) reciprocal (going both ways) and mutual (equally helpful to one another).

We are all different parts of a single body. We have a shared purpose for which we are joined together in unity to accomplish God’s will. When new Christians are babes in Christ, they need to be nourished by the whole faith community until they mature enough spiritually to participate in ministry themselves and serve others as the Holy Spirit directs. But that cannot happen when people look to “someone else” for their own spiritual development, expecting “someone else” to feed them.

Immature believers tend to see church leaders (especially pastors) as extraordinary servants to be placed on a pedestal over everyone else. They are seen as more-perfect beings who have somehow reached a higher level of spirituality. More is expected of them in terms of their time, energy, availability, tolerance, interest, wisdom and service. It’s a wholly unrealistic expectation, but somehow it persists on the part of these potted church-goers who demand they get their feedings.

I confess to feeling angry about this because pastors and church leaders are just human beings. They struggle with the same difficulties and temptations as everyone else. When a church member says, “I’m not being fed” they have an expectation that has no basis in Scripture, and they are making a demand that abrogates their own accountability to the Lord and transfers it to someone else. That is a childish, spoiled and irresponsible attitude. If you are a Christian who is reading this and thinking I am wrong, then answer these questions:

  • What do you want from your church or your pastor? What do you think is the purpose and function of a church? How do you need to grow spiritually? How would you describe your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Where does the church’s responsibility end and yours begin?

  • Is your faith based on the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, or do you pick and choose what you want to believe? Do you believe you must submit to the authority of Scripture or do you only consider it a guide?

  • How well do you know God’s word? Are you reading your Bible regularly? Are you in a Bible study? Do you meditate on the word? Do you memorize Scripture? Do you discuss it with others?

  • How much time do you spend in prayer? Who and what do you pray for? Do you meet with others to pray?

  • Do you regularly attend Sunday worship services? Have you formed relationships with other believers? Do you meet with some of them during the week? Are you a witness to your faith in your daily life?

  • Are you serving in some capacity in any church ministry? Do you know what your own ministry is? Have you seen a need and tried to fill it, or thought of a new ministry and brought the idea to your church leaders?

All of these are indicators of your spiritual walk. If you are crying, “Feed me!” while the above opportunities are offered at your church, you are no more able to walk with the Lord than a potted plant. If you go to church to be entertained by the worship music, social activities or stirring oratory, you are there for the wrong reasons. You are just a pew warmer. Jesus didn’t say, “Sit and act nice; the pastor will teach you what you need to know.” He said, “Deny yourself” and “Follow me” and “Go and sin no more”.

In Matthew 5:6 Jesus spoke of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. There is the tacit presumption in his words that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness do more than merely demand to be fed. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:17), to be hungry but not be willing to feed oneself is senseless.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are to make every effort to seek righteousness, pursue righteousness, and take whatever steps they can to feed themselves. God expects us to grow up and take responsibility for how we work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. – Hosea 10:12

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. – Isaiah 51:1

Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. – Zephaniah 2:3

When Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you” he was not speaking to infants who needed to be fed by someone else. He was speaking to adults who needed to learn to be persistently engaged in seeking answers from the LORD. The verbs in Greek mean to keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. That requires maturity, responsibility and persistence in our faith walk, not demanding that others do what we should be doing for ourselves.

Christians who think like potted plants and leave their churches because they “aren’t being fed” are seriously deceived. They think the kingdom of heaven is built up when churches give them what they want, leaving to look elsewhere when they don’t get it. It’s really all about what pleases them, not about what is pleasing to God.

This is a distortion of the shepherd and the sheep model because the Bible tells us that Jesus is the true Shepherd, not pastors or leaders. While pastors and leaders do indeed have some “shepherding” tasks, the folks in the congregation – as sheep – are not to remain helpless or dumb animals. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commands” (John 14:15). So, as I mentioned above, we are all to work out our own salvation. I am very sure that Jesus commands us to live and grow according to his word, rather than expect our happiness to come from how our church “feeds” us.

Rather than acting like that bizarre potted vegetable of Little Shop of Horrors fame, seek the Lord in prayer (Hebrews 11:6), look for wisdom in his word (James 3:17), remember that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), and ask him how he wants you to build up his body (1 Corinthians 14:12). He will build you up as you obey him and learn to function as part of his body (Colossians 2:19).

Remember, Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28) and “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). If you want to be Christ-like, seek to feed others. Don’t demand that others feed you.

Posted in Christian Attitudes, The Church | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Very Long, Long Answer

This post is much longer than I had anticipated. Some may think it tedious. But I felt compelled to fully express my thoughts as I sought to answer a particular comment. I sincerely hope that there is someone who reads and appreciates what I say here. This is primarily written as a response to a comment by Jeffrey Liakos to my post of May 23, 2012, The Heart Has Its Reasons.

I recently received several comments to a variety of my older posts from him. My reaction to these comments was a mild annoyance because I felt that in general they reflected a kind of quarrelsome one-upmanship – a tossing of the hat into the ring. It seems to me that’s typical of what commenting has come to. And that may be why so many people prefer social media to commenting on my kind of blog. Most people seem less inclined to articulate the pros and cons of an issue than simply state what side of the issue they are on, repeating the same, tired talking points. I do not find such “discussion” to be constructive.

The highest and best use of argument or debate is to arrive at a more informed or thoughtful place than where we started. Yet, when was the last time that happened? So, I decided to stop trying to swat away each comment as I might if they were irksome insects, and rather engage at some length with one single, representative comment. Hopefully, the quality of discussion will improve.

By the way, six years ago I wrote an article, Your Comments which will help the reader understand what I am looking for in comments.

There is a twofold motivation for this post. First, I have grown weary of answering his many comments, because no matter how hard I try, he simply doesn’t seem to get where I am coming from, despite saying he agrees with me on most things, which leads to the second and most important issue: Every point I attempt to express in this blog is based on my Biblical Christian world view that all meaning, value and authority come from God, and that this truth is absolute, not relative. That is what I will be emphasizing here.

The problem with much of the discussion of social and cultural issues today is that popularly held positions usually proceed from post-modern world views which are littered with humanist, relativist and self-centered presumptions. Like the argument between pro-abortionists and anti-abortionists, there can be no meeting of the minds until they can agree on their basic assumptions. And there can be no agreement on basic assumptions until there is unanimity in our world views.

So, before I present Jeffrey’s comment and my response to it, I feel it necessary to lay out my world view as it relates to the posts I write. If you can understand and appreciate my overall world view, then it doesn’t really matter if you don’t agree with me on specific particulars. It’s OK to disagree, but it’s not OK to quarrel about our disagreements (see Romans 14).

First, I believe in God, the infinitely perfect, loving, holy, just and merciful God of the Bible. And I believe the Bible to be the authoritative word of God. I believe God created everything in the universe (For the philosophically challenged, that doesn’t mean he created evil. Evil is the absence of God, just as darkness is the absence of light.). I believe God has absolute authority over human beings and that we all are personally and directly accountable to him. I believe all of humanity is subject to God’s judgment.

I also believe that humans changed their very nature by sinning (disobeying, rebelling) against God, and that our sinful nature separates us from God. Humans tried to bridge the gap of our separation and get back to God through religion, but history has shown that we are incapable of reconnecting to God by our own efforts. Sin totally separates us from God.

But in his mercy, God provided a way for both punishment and debt to be cancelled, and joyful fellowship with him to be restored for eternity. That provision is Jesus, God the Son, who came to earth as a man, lived a sinless life, yet freely offered himself as the only possible sacrifice (ransom) sufficient to pay for our sin. The way each person can appropriate God’s provision of forgiveness and eternal life is to humbly receive Jesus Christ, accepting his sacrifice for our sin, and then turning our very lives over to him. This “faith” is not simply a matter of mentally agreeing to do so. Faith means actually doing it.

Jesus said if we want to follow him we must “deny” ourselves, yet we live in a day and age when everyone does what is right in their own eyes, justifying what they do by seeing themselves as their own authority, either because they don’t believe in God or don’t believe he has authority over them as revealed in Scripture.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Problem Of Pain, the author mused, “The moralities accepted among men may differ – though not, at bottom, so widely as is often claimed – but they all agree in prescribing a behaviour which their adherents fail to practise. All men alike stand condemned not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, therefore are conscious of guilt.” (page 11)

In other words, a moral person tries to do the right thing, and yet fails. As an example, Paul said, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” – Romans 7:15. Contrast this with the immoral person who no longer even tries to do right. They no longer feel guilt because their consciences have become “seared as with a hot iron” (See 1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The third chapter of The Problem Of Pain is titled, “Divine Goodness” in which Lewis differentiates God’s goodness from human goodness and God’s love from human love. There is a popular saying these days that “love is love”. But Lewis points out that while human love can be both egoistic and altruistic, God’s love transcends those parameters.

The love relationship Christians enjoy with their heavenly Father is a direct result of our submission to Jesus Christ as our Lord. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” – John 14:15.

C.S. Lewis echoes this sentiment: To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire.” (page 44)

He goes on to say, “Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted.” (page 46) And, “…whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.” (page 47)

This Biblical Christian world view makes no sense to those whose pride prevents them from humbling themselves before God. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” – 1 Corinthians 1:18. And in our society today there is such a particularly high regard for self-esteem and the rights of each individual to fulfill whatever desire they may have, that any thought of being answerable to the absolute authority of God threatens their self-centered outlook, which devolves from their relativist world view. That is one reason there is such intense hatred of Christians when they reflect to those who identify as LGBTQ that God has given us clear moral instructions for how we are to express our sexuality, and how we are not.

It is not that I as an individual am judging or condemning others, or that I am telling others what to do. What I say here and what I have said in the past is a response to what I see as people who are slaves to sin insisting that all of society approve of their sinful behavior and pass laws that enable them to continue to freely sin and draw others into sin along with them.

Ezekiel 33:6 says, “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.”

Christians are called to be witnesses to God’s truth. If we see evil and yet remain silent, we become responsible for the consequences that might have been different had we warned others, giving them the chance to repent. And so it is the duty of those who know the truth to warn those in jeopardy of God’s judgement.

Now that I have explained my reasons for writing what I write, here is the comment made by Jeffrey Liakos to my post of May 23, 2012, The Heart Has Its Reasons. Following it, I will respond to each of his points.

That may be true, however, like Qur’an, the Bible has stories that depict violence. Also, the book of Revelation depicts stories of the apocalypse. Do you honestly think gay people choose to be gay or that they are born that way? If they choose to be gay, than they are engaging in what the Bible calls sinful behavior. Assuming that they are born that way, the implication of sinful behavior is not credible. Back to my earlier comment where I said that the United States was not a nation based on religious supremacy but religious freedom, you did not actually deny that insofar as I know. If you are married, how exactly is your marriage threatened by same sex couples wanting the same basic rights? Please, don’t give me the they can marry a person of the opposite sex line. That is something I came across in another forum that talked about the issue of same sex marriage. People who talk about freedom in some cases mean that freedom means freedom for everybody. Other people view freedom as their right to impose their will upon others. Also, what about people who preach about the importance of marriage to society? Newt Gingrich championed DOMA, the Defense of marriage Act, however, he has been married 3 times. Anybody who champions a defense of marriage and has been through multiple marriages is by definition a hypocrite. The only downside to same sex parenting is being faced with “Go ask your Mother” for lesbian couples or “Go ask your Father” for gay couples that have children. In a straight household context, you can hear the “Go ask your Mother, or “Go ask your Father” line. So, in a straight household context, you can get the normal suggestion of your Mother or your Father. Also, government should have no place in marriage debate. Leave it to the Churches or have a civil union, the latter which should be acknowledged by the government. In some other forums that I have participated in, the subject of same sex marriage has been a topic that is discussed. Even though my views differ from yours, your views seem to be more well thought out than other people’s in my opinion.

Here is my point-by-point breakdown:

Let me begin by explaining what “That may be true” relates to. In one of Mr. Liakos’ previous comments he had said, “Quoting Scripture can lead to misinterpretations of it by some people.” Using that same “reasoning” one could shift the blame of disinformation from those who distort the truth to those who report the truth. Mr. Liakos is apparently unaware of the non sequitur here. I responded, “It isn’t the quoting of Scripture that leads to misinterpretations. It’s ignorance and hearts that are open to spiritual deception.” This is what he referred to when he said, “That may be true”. Leaving that thought, he continued with…

however, like Qur’an, the Bible has stories that depict violence. Also, the book of Revelation depicts stories of the apocalypse.

So, starting by talking about the problem of misinterpreting Scripture caused by quoting it, now he adds that both the Quran and the Bible depict violence. I suppose he expects me to read between the lines because he doesn’t actually say it, but what I think he means is that the Bible is no better a source of truth than the Quran, and that for every Biblical quote that I might use to support a point, an Islamic scholar might use a quote from the Quran in opposition.

If that is the case, then should no one in any debate ever quote sources that support their position? He seems to imply that conclusion because there are major differences between the Bible and the Quran. So, is he suggesting that we should throw out all source material as authoritative and just go by our gut feelings?

Aside from the problems that arise from the abandonment of basic logic and critical reasoning skills, the idea of not quoting Scripture for fear it may lead to misinterpretation overlooks the possibility that the Bible may very well be the best evidence available to teach us the truth about God. Unless a person is open to that possibility and willing to examine it, there is no likelihood that he will ever discover the truth. Scripture is evidence. Evidence is supposed to be examined.

In particular, before anyone makes the decision to treat the Bible and the Quran with equal regard or to discard the Bible altogether out of reverence for the so-called “perfect and eternal” words of the Quran, I suggest they read, No God But One, by Nabeel Qureshi. He is a Christian apologist who converted from Islam after four years of arguing for Islam with his Christian friend, former atheist, David Wood. In the end he discovered answers for all of his objections and questions, and saw from scholarly research that the best evidence by far was that the Bible teaches truth while Islam is a false religion.

His book covers in detail the incontrovertible evidence. The only real question is, “So what?” How much does the truth really matter to those whose world view questions the very existence of absolute truth? In the conclusion of No God But One, Nabeel Qureshi writes, “But if there was one thing Islam had taught me, it was that I must submit to God and not to man. That meant following the truth, no matter where it led…The evidence in favor of Christianity was far, far stronger than the evidence for Islam.” (page 290)

I submit that a thorough and objective examination of the Bible in comparison to the so-called holy books of other religions will produce convincing evidence of the truth. That’s why I will always quote Scripture to support my position.

Continuing on, Mr. Liakos asks,

Do you honestly think gay people choose to be gay or that they are born that way? If they choose to be gay, than they are engaging in what the Bible calls sinful behavior. Assuming that they are born that way, the implication of sinful behavior is not credible.

The Bible teaches that everyone is born into sin. We are all sinful by nature. Does that alter the fact that we are responsible for our sin? No. God holds us accountable because he creates us with free will. We have the capacity to choose to repent from sin and turn to God. And yet, we are incapable of saving ourselves from the wages of sin, which is death.

Even when we choose not to sin, none of us is perfect. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The solution to this dilemma isn’t to accept our sinfulness and continue in our sin. The solution is to confess our sin, ask God’s forgiveness and then go and sin no more. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Every sincere Christian struggles with sin. When we fall, we pick ourselves up, ask the Lord’s forgiveness, and then try once more to walk in his light, that is, live our lives in close fellowship with him, denying our fleshly desires to sin. This is called living in grace. Over time, we learn to be more holy, as he is holy. And this process is called our sanctification. The question of whether or not homosexuals are “born that way” is spiritually irrelevant.

Next, Mr. Liakos wrote,

Back to my earlier comment where I said that the United States was not a nation based on religious supremacy but religious freedom, you did not actually deny that insofar as I know.

No, I didn’t. I have no idea what he meant by “religious supremacy” because he didn’t explain it.  Back in 1787 when the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, the word “religion” was primarily used to refer to the various Christian denominations, and Judaism – the “other Biblical religion”. “Pagan” religions were specifically considered “false” religions whose adherents were targeted by missionaries to be saved from perdition by teaching them the gospel. There were very few adherents of Eastern religions in early America. They were largely understood as belonging to the Orient and therefore foreign to America and American thought.

Therefore the idea of “religious freedom” had to do with the fact that different denominations drew different doctrines from the same Biblical text. The framers of the Constitution believed that men were free in their accountability to Scripture to worship God as they were led by their conscience, and not to be taxed in order to support any particular State religion over all others. Thus, article 1 of the Bill of Rights specifies, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

“The free exercise thereof” means that a constitutional government does not have the power to regulate religious expression unless such expression crosses the line into criminal behavior. The doctrine of separation of Church and State, which is not in the Constitution, does not prohibit citizens from bringing their religious convictions and values into the workings of government. That current misunderstanding is a perversion of the original intent of that Jeffersonian doctrine.

Next, in shotgun fashion, Mr. Liakos lists a string of objections to my post, The Heart Has Its Reasons. He begins,

If you are married, how exactly is your marriage threatened by same sex couples wanting the same basic rights? Please, don’t give me the they can marry a person of the opposite sex line. That is something I came across in another forum that talked about the issue of same sex marriage.

Well, this does pose a problem in his thinking. The truth is the truth, whether you want to hear it or not.  Either the issue of same-sex couples is one of morality, which Bible-believing traditionalists argue, or it is one of legality. Legally speaking, homosexuals have always had the exact, same marriage “rights” as heterosexuals – that is, to marry someone of the opposite sex, which is what marriage is.

Homosexuals have done two things in this arena. First, they have tried to humiliate anyone who would say that homosexuality is immoral, by calling traditionalists who believe in the Bible “homophobes” and characterizing their argument as coming from fear, hate, ignorance or bigotry, rather than what it is: a moral conviction derived from sound Biblical teaching that has been historically consistent for millennia.

Second, they have changed the argument from one of morals to one of “equal rights”. Their idea of equal is if heterosexuals are free to marry someone of the opposite sex, then homosexuals should be free to marry someone of the same sex. There is a fundamental error in that rationale. The only way they can succeed in that argument is to change the legal definition of marriage. And that is what they have done.

Marriage is and always has been a formally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman. It is so singularly important to Biblical theology that the Church is spoken of as “the bride of Christ”. And the relationship between husband and wife is modeled after the relationship Christ has with the Church (Ephesians 5:22-28). In the eyes of God, two persons of the same sex can never constitute a marriage, regardless of how human laws may be changed to accommodate them. Under God’s law marriage offers no “basic rights” for homosexuals.

Using the same rationale as changing human laws to conform to their lifestyle, those who support same-sex marriage revert to changing the tenets of their religions to suit themselves or change the meaning of Scripture to suit themselves. They either deny the existence of God altogether, or pick and choose what they are going to believe in the Bible and change the meaning of any verse that offends them.

The overarching issue here is that they deny God’s authority in their lives and they deny the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture. Am I saying I want everyone to belong to my religion? No. I want my society to reflect the morals of a people who acknowledge the supreme Creator and respect those who submit to his authority. That is the basis upon which our nation was founded.

The effect of legalizing same-sex marriage is one of the moral decay of society at large. It eats away at the very underpinnings of civilization. By approving of behavior that God considers an abomination, we as a people are garnering the wrath of God. As our nation thumbs its nose at God, we are daring him to stop us. And in his timing, he will bring his judgment to bear upon us.

The effect on generations yet to be born will be to lose any sense of the holy sanctity of marriage, and see it as nothing more than a legal partnership for the purpose of legal rights. Marriage as the root of the family, the cornerstone of community and the anchor of morality will disappear, only to be replaced by the sterile, empty, selfish lie that two men or two women together can please God or benefit society. That’s not my opinion. It’s truth from Scripture.  Are you open to the truth?

Jeffrey’s comment continues,

People who talk about freedom in some cases mean that freedom means freedom for everybody. Other people view freedom as their right to impose their will upon others.

And the point is…? Freedom isn’t a matter of opinion. It is not a vague concept or a disembodied theory. Freedom is something very real, so real that countless people have willingly died to gain it or defend it, including especially those who fought and died in our Revolutionary War against Great Britain. If you want to know what freedom is, talk to anyone who has escaped the tyranny of a totalitarian regime. They can tell you exactly what freedom is.

Unfortunately, few Americans seem to have the slightest idea of what freedom is, because they keep bargaining away their freedoms for Nanny State entitlements. The price of freedom is responsibility and restraint. The kind of “free country” originally intended by the Declaration of Independence was one in which each person is free to pursue their own happiness. That means they, not the government, are responsible for their lives. Most people today can’t even grasp that. Freedom is seen more as getting things “for free” from the government.

The phrase, “impose their will upon others” is loaded because EVERYONE knows that imposing your will on others is the opposite of freedom, the absence of restraint. When government imposes taxes on working citizens in order to provide entitlements (“for free”) for those who don’t work, that certainly isn’t freedom. When florists or bakers are forced to provide floral arrangements or cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages, in violation of their deeply held religious convictions, that’s not freedom. That’s an example of, how did you say it? “impose their will upon others”.

Freedom is only and always freedom for all. But you can’t have freedom for all by restricting the religious freedoms of those who believe that homosexuality and other sexual deviancy is sinful, disgraceful and an abomination to God. You may have noticed the name of my blog is “For Freedom – Galatians 5:1”. I am for freedom because God is for freedom. Our social freedoms all are derived from our spiritual freedom. Freedom is not man-made. It is the way God has created us to live.

God gives us all free will and doesn’t force anyone to be a moral person. Nevertheless he gives us his moral standards and expects our laws to reflect his laws. (This is called “natural law”, the philosophy of law under which this nation was founded and developed for its first century.) John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”.  Thus problems arise when laws are made that do not conform to our traditional moral and religious values.

But we have abandoned God, we have abandoned God’s laws, and in our human wisdom we think we can legislate morality and create freedom outside the framework of godliness. It simply cannot work because what is substituted for the wisdom of God is the wisdom of popular opinion.

Basically, the mantra of utilitarianism is “the greater good”. And the only way the “majority” can be satisfied is to force the minority to conform to their will for the “greater good”. It’s a lie. An illusion. The only thing utilitarianism can accomplish is that one group of people is denied their true freedom in order to provide some imitation of freedom for a specially entitled group. So, no, I don’t care what some people may call freedom. I know what it is.

The comment continues:

Also, what about people who preach about the importance of marriage to society? Newt Gingrich championed DOMA, the Defense of marriage Act, however, he has been married 3 times. Anybody who champions a defense of marriage and has been through multiple marriages is by definition a hypocrite.

The validity of any argument does not rest on the virtues or faults of the person making it. There is a difference between the message and the messenger. If you’re going to fault Newt Gingrich’s support of DOMA because of the failure of his marriages, then do you also fault Martin Luther King Jr.’s support of civil rights which were based on the Christian message he preached? He too was an unfaithful hypocrite, so should we discount his message?

If you discount the truth or virtue of any principle or ideal because the person aspiring to it has personally failed, or if you refuse to listen to the ideals held by anyone who has a fault, then you will never be able to glean anything good from others.

No person who ever lived is perfect, except for Jesus Christ. Will you listen to him? The fact is that there’s a bit of hypocrite in every one of us, even you. But when it comes to working at making our society a moral one, I believe the ideal of DOMA is far more positive and constructive than the ideal of same-sex marriage.

I’ve heard critics say, “Churches are full of hypocrites”. And that is true. But it is equally true that the rest of society is also full of hypocrites. At least the ones in church are trying to come to grips with themselves, face their short-comings and try to live in a way that is more pleasing to God.

Next:

The only downside to same sex parenting is being faced with “Go ask your Mother” for lesbian couples or “Go ask your Father” for gay couples that have children. In a straight household context, you can hear the “Go ask your Mother, or “Go ask your Father” line. So, in a straight household context, you can get the normal suggestion of your Mother or your Father.

This is clumsily written (poor communication). Please take the time to learn how to put cogent thoughts into written words. Otherwise, why bother? Simple logic tells us that “same sex parenting” can only be “for gay couples that have children.” Aside from that, telling your child to ask the other parent is simply bad parenting. It may look cute or humorous on TV but in real life it is an irresponsible cop-out. The maker of such a comment is either not a parent himself, or is a poor one who has no business speculating on the effectiveness of same-sex parenting.

Hopefully, in 20 years or more we will have statistical information available on the actual results of same-sex parenting. My guess is that the politically correct crowd will continue to avoid looking at the evidence objectively and just make excuses for the sad outcomes. But that’s just my opinion, and no less valid than anyone else’s speculation.

Next:

Also, government should have no place in marriage debate. Leave it to the Churches or have a civil union, the latter which should be acknowledged by the government.

Finally, something I can agree with. Unfortunately the horses are already out of the barn. The gay agenda has slowly seduced society into going along with their godlessness. The government has stepped in and in many states same-sex marriage has been given the sanction of official law. But as I said previously, now religious rights will be taken away from anyone whose religious convictions teach them that transgenderism, like homosexuality is immoral and wrong.

And this is only the tip of the ice burg. Not only are transgenders pressing for special restroom accommodations, but the very idea of gender itself is becoming a legal issue, framed in the concept of freedom of choice. Yet, according to the Bible, God created man in is image – male and female – genders obvious from birth. We are either born male or female, according to how God decides to make us. But contrary to the designs of God, man-made laws are being made to allow everyone to choose whatever gender they want. They can even make up a new gender if they want, because gender is no longer considered “binary”.

The problem with man-made laws is that they cannot forever stand against the will of God. The sixth chapter of Daniel records the story of the lions’ den. Three times in that chapter it is repeated that the law of the Medes and Persians cannot be revoked. So, in accordance with the law, Daniel was put into the lions’ den as punishment for praying to God instead of to the king. In his sovereignty, God nullified the law and kept Daniel safe. So, the mere fact that human laws now recognize multiple, optional genders doesn’t make those genders real in the eyes of God.

The comment closes with this statement:

In some other forums that I have participated in, the subject of same sex marriage has been a topic that is discussed. Even though my views differ from yours, your views seem to be more well thought out than other people’s in my opinion.

Considering the comment as a whole, I consider this last statement to be high praise. Thank you. I appreciate it. My response is that I wonder where a person can go these days to share well thought-out views and not get into stone throwing contests or name calling quarrels? The whole purpose of freedom of speech is to find a way of working out disagreements among civilized people by connecting them, not separating them into factions, which people now call “communities”.

Rather than choosing to build unity out of disparate elements (“E Pluribus Unum”), society seems to increasingly choose fighting and the destruction of their opponents. As a society, we seem more concerned with eliminating functional differences than working them out. We used to be a society of “Christian consensus” wherein classical Biblical ideals were generally accepted, but not forced upon everyone. Now, as a society, we are forcing those with a Biblical world view to accept the permissive license of godless relativism while being restricted in the expression of their faith.

When we speak of an “open” society, we mean open to ideas, open to discussion. That is not the same as being open to immorality and lawlessness. Real freedom means responsibility and personal restraint, not anarchy; maturity and judgment, not wild abandon. In our republican form of government, the principle of Democracy was never intended to be as immediate as mob mentality or as variable as wherever the wind is blowing.

Every decision we make as a society should proceed from composed, honest, deliberate, rational, principled, respectable and informed debate. That’s what Congress is supposed to do. That is what media is supposed to do. That is what higher education is supposed to teach us to do. Instead, we get fighting mad. We yell. We curse. We call each other names. We turn to violence and hatred. We feel the only solution is to shut up anyone who opposes us. Shut them up and beat them down. And this way of doing things is undercutting the very foundation of our civilization.

So what’s the solution? Arguing the minutiae of every controversy that divides us as a people? No. I think the human mind is incapable of solving human dilemmas. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” At the root of all of the controversies we face in life is the problem of sin. We cannot master sin, but the LORD can and does. So the best we can do is look to him and follow him.

That is why regardless of any position we take on any social issue, we ultimately must trust in the LORD for the solution. I would suggest regular reading and studying the Bible in order to help in learning how to do this. There are also many good books written by Christian thinkers that clearly demonstrate rational explanations for the ways our Christian faith directs us to live our lives.

For skeptics of the Christian world view, I recommend reading William Lane Craig, or Nancy Pearcey, especially her books, Total Truth and Saving Leonardo. For those who like to lump all religions together, I recommend Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias. For a direct comparison of Christianity to Islam, I recommend Nabeel Qureshi’s book, No God But One. For examining the deity of Christ, read Lee Strobel’s The Case For Christ. Everyone has heard of C.S. Lewis. For those who are tempted to consider that the very existence of the supernatural defies rational thought, read his book, Miracles.

These authors represent a mere smattering of the written works available to anyone open to learning what intelligent, rational and scholarly people have written about the Bible, the God of the Bible and Biblical faith. In my opinion, only the most closed-minded person would refuse to rationally examine what these authors have written. Such a refusal can only mean they prefer to remain in the bliss of their own ignorance.

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