Tim Kaine’s missing Bible pages: Redemption—not celebration—of a lost world.

September 14, 2016 § 1 Comment

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How many pages does your Bible have? Tim Kaine’s is apparently missing a few, specifically everything after the first chapter. From CBS News:

“Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine touted the importance of LGBTQ equality as a campaign issue and recounted his own struggle to reconcile his support for gay rights with his Catholic faith. … The Virginia senator said that while Catholic doctrine is at odds with marriage equality, his interpretation of the Bible celebrates diversity. ‘My church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis who surveys the entire world, including mankind, and said it is very good,’ said Kaine. … ‘Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family? I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it.’”(1)

In Genesis 1:31, God does indeed survey His creation and call it “very good.” In chapter 2, however, we find the clear distinction of male and female and God defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In chapter 3, the “very good” creation from chapter 1 is corrupted by sin’s entrance into the world through man’s disobedience to God. We no longer live in the “very good” world that God created, but a world deviated from God’s very good plan for, among many things, marriage and human relationships, a world that seeks sexual autonomy above just about everything else. As Genesis 2 might have revealed to Tim Kaine if he’d gotten that far, God’s “very good” creation was never intended to include homosexuality and gay marriage. A short-sighted view of Genesis 1 and our current reality of a sinful Genesis 3 world is what Tim Kaine is actually seeking to celebrate in LGBTQ “diversity”.

“Did God REALLY say…?” (Satan, Genesis 3:1)

But thank God there’s more to the story. The chapters that follow Genesis 3, in fact the rest of the Bible, lay out God’s plan to redeem the world from sin, culminating in the sending if His one and only Son to buy us back from our slavery to sin. What we know from considering the whole of Scripture, not just the first chapter, is that He will one day restore all things to “very good.” Until then, we should be a part of redeeming a lost world, not celebrating it.

1) Brown, Erica. “Tim Kaine opens up on reconciling LGBTQ equality, religious faith.” CBS News, 11 Sep. 2016. Web 14 Sep. 2016 (Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tim-kaine-opens-up-on-reconciling-lgbtq-equality-catholic-faith-campaign-2016/)

 

Hiking Through Genesis

June 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

20140628-233942-85182863.jpg“The heights of the mountains are His…” 

I recall our recent vacation in Colorado as a hike through the historical reality of the book of Genesis. The beauty of creation is obvious, making its Creator obvious, but much of the beauty in places like Glenwood Canyon is actually the result of destruction.

Soaring cliffs with diagonal stratigraphic stripes echo from a era when violent collisions of tectonic plates thrusted pieces of earth at all angles, forming the Rockies and vast mountain ranges all over the globe. God’s original creation was once baptized in a flood of judgment, reshaping it into a different world, yet one we can still admire and see His hand in.

Pristine hidden mountain lakes, waterfalls, and gardens remind us of the even more ancient history of Eden, before perfection was poisoned by man’s disobedience. On a particular trail, a lizard scurried across our path, a harmless version of the legged serpent who prodded Eve toward the forbidden fruit with the challenge, “Did God really say…?”

In Colorado, and elsewhere, that same challenge to God’s created order lingers. Passing through Denver, we visited a cake baker scorned by the new moral regime for “insensitivity” toward alternative forms of marriage. While visiting our niece there, we passed by the oddly and aptly named “Pridefest”, a celebration and manifestation of that challenge of old: “‘Did God really say’ that a man be joined to his wife?”

If art is a reflection of the good, the beautiful and the true, then nature qualifies as art. Breathtaking canyons and scenic vistas born out of destruction are a picture of God’s redemption of the lost. That’s the good in it. The beauty is obvious, and the truth is what it says about the Creator it glorifies—that He is big, creative, just, powerful, yet loving enough to restore sinful men made righteous through the destruction of His Son (and our sin) on a cross.

20140628-075452-28492051.jpgAt night, the stars we can see but cannot count once illustrated God’s promise of new life through Abraham’s offspring. From the true blue expanse above, painted brightly at dawn and dusk, to the life-giving rivers that twist through canyons as a remnant of holy wrath, creation is a historical art gallery of beauty from destruction. God will one Day destroy and remake the world one last time, and He can also remake hearts so we can forever hike those trails too.

In the meantime, “Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed…”
(Isaiah 44:23)

Answering Biblical ‘Contradictions’: Different Order of Creation in Genesis 1 and 2

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Objection:

Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 directly contradict each other regarding the order of creation. They both can’t be right – but they both can be wrong.

Answer:

Genesis 1 is an overview of the six days of creation, and chapter 2 is a more detailed and developed narrative of the sixth day, focusing on the creation of mankind. There is no conflict. If you’re critiquing the relative order of plants and man, Ch. 1 puts plants before man in order of creation. But ch. 2 (“before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown”, vs. 5) refers to the cultivation of plants, which had not yet occurred when Adam was created. God created vegetation (as well as everything else) in a fully grown state, not as seeds in the ground. He gave the responsibility of farming to Adam. The words translated to plant, field and grew differ from the terms that express general vegetation in chapter 1. Some contend that the chapters differ in the order of creation of animals relative to man, but 2:19 suggests that the animals were brought to Adam after Adam was created, not that they were created after him.

Is the ‘Normal’ Way the Right Way?

October 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

I don’t want to sound like a relativist, but what is “normal” anyway? I think opening a post with a dictionary definition is pretty cliché (/klēˈSHā/), but I’d like to try to reach some standard for the word normal. The spirit of the definitions I’ve found include: “Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected” and “the usual, average, or typical state or condition.”

Let’s take a look at what is considered normal in the culture we live in.

Author and Phychiatrist Daniel Amen was hard-pressed to find a “normal” brain. In one of his own studies, Amen found 49% of his participants to have at least one psychiatric illness. (1)

We live in an increasingly anxious world. “Valium was, significantly, one of the first psychoactive drugs to be used on a large scale on people who were basically fine. It has since been surpassed by other drugs, like the popular tranquilizer Xanax.” (NY Times) Apparently the new normal is to take something to help us feel more normal.

Great Britain is seeking to legalize gay marriage so that they can be known as a “modern country”. (Telegraph) So does normal mean modern? Or does normal mean legal?

It’s hard to see a more intentional effort to normalize homosexual relationships in the entertainment world than in NBC’s The New Normal, a show starring a gay couple. The promotion for the show goes: “These days, families come in all forms – single dads, double moms, sperm donors, egg donors, one-night-stand donors… It’s 2012 and anything goes.” (NBC.com)

It’s evident that normalization of one thing leads to the need to change something else. With the increased acceptance of homosexual behavior comes the apparent need to redefine parental roles and the basic family unit as it’s been known for all human history. This move is starting in France, where the government is set to ban the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ from official documents. (Telegraph)

As of the last few days, Protestantism has apparently stopped being the norm in America as less than half (48%) in the U.S. now identify themselves as Protestant, with those claiming “no religion” quickly on the rise. (USA Today).

We could go on using recent headlines, but the above illustrates ‘normal’ that conforms to a standard of averages. Appealing to popularity as the standard for ‘normal’ is obviously relative and subjective, prone to continually evolve. It depends on the influence of an ever-changing culture. If we consider a fixed standard for normal, a Biblical standard originating from the very nature of God, we can connect normal to an objective standard that doesn’t change. God is the only place we will truly be able to find a true fixed standard. Then purpose and design also become relevant. God’s intent for gender roles, sexuality, family, marriage, mental and physical health, and worship is much different—or abnormal—relative to modern culture.

What many call a moral compass is really just a windsock.

Since normal can be defined either by what is popular and changing or what is true and unchanging, a “normal” thing can be good or bad, right or wrong. Obviously then, normal does not always mean right—it’s often wrong.

In terms of popular consensus, normal and good were joined in the beginning in God’s “good” creation (Genesis 1). Will it ever be like that again? Christians are promised a future where what is normal is only what is right and true, when Jesus makes a new creation in line with His original design and purpose.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Rev. 21:1-7)

What many call a moral compass is actually just a windsock, revealing the momentary direction of the wind rather than true north. If we define normal by the objective standard of morality we can’t deny, the one described in the Bible, we avoid the confusion that a standard based on the winds of culture leave us with. And really there is nothing that can’t be made ‘normal.’

1. Amen, Daniel G., M.D., Making a Good Brain Great (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2005), 70. (Back)

What On Earth Are You Waiting For?

October 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

God calls people to action. Here are a few of many such callings to “go” in Scripture.

The call of Abram (Genesis 12:1-9): “The Lord had said to Abram,’Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.'”

The call of Isaac (Genesis 26:2-6):  “The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.'”

Moses and the Burning Bush by Domenico Fetti, 1615-1617

The call of Moses (Exodus 3:10-12): “‘So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt.’”

The call of Jonah (Jonah 1:2):  “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’”

Jesus calls His first disciples (Mark 1:17): “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out…”

Jesus sends out seventy-two to preach (Luke 10:3): “‘Go! I am sending you out…”

The Great Commission for all believers (Matthew 28:19): “‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…'”

The last call is Jesus’ parting mission for His followers. If we are His follower, it’s likely that someone in our lives took this mission seriously. And if we are His followers, this is our mission too. Christians are supposed to lead others to Jesus. We also are to be living for God, reading His word, praying, worshiping, fellowshipping with other Christians, and striving to be like Christ, putting our Creator first in our lives and loving our neighbors as we do ourselves.

But have you asked yourself, are you ready to really live out the Christian life? Are you prepared to present the Gospel to someone? Are you confident you can give an adequate defense for your faith? Have you memorized enough scripture? Do you read the Bible and pray daily? Have you gotten your Bible college or seminary degree? Or at least taken some good notes at Bible camp? Are you a regular and active member in your church? Are you mature enough? Have you forgiven your enemies and kicked all your bad habits? Theologically, do you know your stuff well enough talk about God to the really smart guy in class or at the office that likes to throw around million dollar words?

When we look at the examples in Scripture of God calling people into ministry, we almost never see a prolonged time of preparation or training for the ministry. God just says “go.” The truth is, if we wait until we think we are “good” enough and therefore ready to fully embrace Christianity, we won’t be ready in this lifetime.

Paul, after writing about what it means to live like a Christian, admits he is far from perfect:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things…. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (Phil. 3:12-16)

Paul knew he wasn’t there yet, but he knows he needs to press on with an eye on the prize, not on the past or even so much on the present. Christians are a work in process, but during the process, we need to work. Waiting until we are good enough, old enough, smart enough, spiritual enough, confident enough, or some other arbitrary point of progress is the biggest thing that can keep us from progress. Some things we need to wait for and prepare for, but a committed pursuit of Christ isn’t one of them. He didn’t wait to pursue you—“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.” (Rev. 3:20)

Speaking of Christ’s pursuit of you, if you’re looking for motivation to get serious, gratitude for His pursuit ought to be enough. Think long and hard about the great lengths the Savior went on our behalf, and getting in the game ought to be an easier decision.

Considering the brevity and mist-like consistency of life (James 4:14), how can we delay becoming a full-fledged disciple of Christ? Life is fleeting. The people you can have an eternal impact on will come into your life and they will leave your life, often unexpectedly. They may even take their own life or have it stolen from them. Meanwhile, here we sit, just across the street or across the hall or across the classroom aisle quietly preparing to one day be a Christian so we can reach out to them.

There’s another motivation that is hard to see without experience that comes from faith: I invite you, as Jesus did (John 1:39, 43), and the disciples did (John 1:46) to make other disciples: “Come and see.”

More than once Paul compares the Christian life to running a race. What would it take to get in the race, instead of strolling along the sidelines or just warming the bench waiting for confidence to arrive? Get this: To train for a race, you do the same thing you do in the actual race. You run. If you feel you need to train first to whole-heartedly go after Christ, then whole-heartedly going after Christ is your training—and the race. (Related post: Don’t Settle for Half)

If you’ve been putting off getting serious about Jesus, today is the perfect day to get serious. What on earth are you waiting for? There is nothing on earth that will prepare you, and it’s heaven that we are seeking anyway. Press on, and start today!

How Could Adam and Eve Sin Before ‘Knowing Good and Evil’?

September 25, 2012 § 28 Comments

Genesis 3 says that Adam and Eve didn’t know good and evil before they sinned. How could they be held morally responsible for sin without the knowledge of good and evil?

The text in question is from Genesis 3:22, where, following Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden, “the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.’” (NIV)

The Hebrew term for “knowing” in this verse (also in verse 5) is not unique to this passage or chapter; it’s the same word “yada” used elsewhere, some 960 times in the Hebrew scriptures. “Yada” can mean to learn, to perceive, to discern, to distinguish, to know by experience, to recognize, to consider, to be acquainted with, and other fairly ordinary definitions of the word listed in Hebrew lexicons (Strong’s #3045). But, there is no particular sense of “knowing” indicated in Genesis 3.

So what meaning of “knowing” is intended? I think the definition “to know by experience” best fits this usage of “knowing”. Imagine what life would have been like for Adam and Eve. At the end of the description for each day of creation, God’s calls His creation “good” or “very good.” (Gen. 1:4,10,12,18,25,31) Adam and Eve knew the “good” that God had made for them, but they would probably not have had the mindset to identify it as good. God knew good and evil; Adam and Eve knew only good, because they had experienced only good. For Adam and Eve to say “all that God has made is good” might mean they would have to understand a distinction between good and evil. They had witnessed or practiced nothing with which to contrast good. Before their own sin, no evil had been known to them in the experiential sense.

Does this mean they didn’t know right from wrong before they sinned? I don’t think so. God tells Adam in Genesis 2:16-17: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” God’s command no doubt informed Adam that there was a specific standard and that a deviation from the standard was possible. He would have been innately aware of God’s moral law, being created in His image, but here he received a specific moral directive. He was also taught about the presence of something called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Adam may have inferred the existence of “evil” as 1) something that was tantamount to deviation from God’s law or directive, and 2) something he was to avoid knowledge about. (Related: Good Ignorance: Handling the Knowledge of Evil)

From that deduction, Adam would have known of evil only as a vague concept, or a theory. Similarly, the consequence God warned Adam about—“you will certainly die”— for disobedience wouldn’t have been fully understood without experiencing death in any of God’s creatures. But he would have perhaps recognized it as a potential ending to what God had provided, a consequence Adam naturally would want to avoid.

I suppose before the fall Adam would have knowledge of evil as someone like myself has knowledge of the President. Do I know the President? Well, I know who he is, and I know about him, but I don’t know him personally. If I met the President, I would know him in a very different sense than simply having heard of him or read about him. When Eve and then Adam in turn disobeyed God’s command, they came to know sin first hand. They had experiential knowledge of both good and evil.

I think it’s fitting and nothing approaching revisionism to say that Adam and Eve knew good because it was all they truly knew, and that they knew only of the potential of evil at Creation, but came to know evil by experience when “their eyes were opened” (Gen. 3:7) following their acts of disobedience to God.

A Doubter Challenges Christianity

July 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

A friend posted this image to my Facebook, prompting the following dialog.

Skeptic

A god needs you to stick up for him?

Mike Johnson

‎”Needs”, no. God wants us to love Him, and “sticking up for Him” is a natural part of a loving relationship.

Skeptic

Why would a deity have such a petty vanity as to care if people believed in him or not?

Mike Johnson

Because He is not a God who created then abandoned us. Why would a personal, self-giving God not desire to give us the best thing He could, which is Himself?

Skeptic

Is a God who creates something in his own image, gives that creation free will, and then punishes said creation when they don’t do what he wants, really the best thing?

Mike Johnson

I believe it is. God gave us choice. Choosing to oppose His will is sin, and a just God must punish sin. In a logical universe made by a logical Creator, justice makes sense. What would be a better alternative?

Skeptic

He sets you up for failure. No one is perfect and if we are made in his image, that suggests that he is imperfect also. So if an imperfect “god” creates a flawed people and establishes for them, flawed rules for how they can or cannot live their own lives, ultimately the populus is going to fail their creator. And because no one is without sin, everyone is going to hell. But wait! Like the phone-a-friend option on a game show, you can save yourself from a fiery demise if you beg for forgiveness.

Mike Johnson

We are made in His likeness but that doesn’t mean we are perfect like Him. God made people, not other Gods. He made a “good” creation (Gen. 1) and it was through Adam that sin entered the world (Gen 3, Rom 5). Your paraphrase of Rom. 3:23 is right on, all sinners are destined for hell, because God is just. God is also merciful and offers salvation and freedom from sin thru the atoning sacrifice of His Son. That’s also our choice, but a foolish gift not to accept. 🙂 Why does that seem unfair or unbelievable?

Skeptic

Genisis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It wasn’t likeness. It was his image. People make gods. Sin is an imaginary illness and prayer and forgiveness are imaginary remedies. There are numerous cases of Mediterranean religions dating 2000 years before Christ’s existance that state that there was a son born of a virgin (Hebrew translation of virgin: A woman who has not given birth. Nothing about sex.), Was baptized, performed miracles, and claimed to be the son of whatever god it happened to be. It is foolish to not educate yourself in the working and promises of many gods before deciding which one to place the fate of your salvation with. You wouldn’t buy the first car you drove, would you? But Proverbs 3:5 tells us,”Trust in the lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not.” So why even bother?

Mike Johnson

The very next verse, Genesis 1:28, is “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” God uses likeness interchangeably with image. The Hebrew צלם (tselem) for “image” (Strong’s #6754) is literally a likeness, shade, resemblance of the original.

Re: “numerous cases of Mediterranean religions dating 2000 years before Christ’s existence that state there was a son born of a virgin” etc., Mithra, with roots older than the New Testament, is a pagan deity claimed to bear striking similarities to Christ. The Messiah’s virgin birth and other details about Him were prophesied in Isaiah, written about 700 BC. Other Messianic prophesies date back to the beginning of Judaism with Abraham, about 2,000 BC, and in written form through Moses about 1400 BC. Mithraism has no codified writings that old. The oldest date for Mithraism as a Persian religion is said to date back to 1500 BC, but there is actually no literary or archaeological evidence to support such a date. Mithraism most likely copied elements from Judaism/Christianity.

I agree that educating yourself on other beliefs is helpful, but everyone settles on one belief exclusive of all others. For many Christians, Christianity is not “the first car they drove”. But the reason Proverbs 3:5 says to trust God before our own reason is because Christianity is actually the only worldview that makes sense out of our use of reason. Apart from the God described in the Bible, reason, the laws of logic, morality, uniformity in nature, trusting our senses, can’t be explained. Prov 9:10 and Ps. 111:10 say that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” because ours eyes then are opened to the folly of rejecting the knowledge of God that we all have (Rom. 1:18-20). A God who values reason gave us reason and invites us to use it (Isaiah 1:18), but man’s wisdom and reasoning is secondary and in fact can only be accounted for on Christianity. That’s why, while reason is never discarded, faith must come first.

Skeptic

Thank you for the perspective. I’m a doubter and I’m trying to educate myself. I apologize if I seemed rude or out of line. I was merely prying for information and your sincerity with what you believe and information you could convey has taught me a lot. Enjoy your summer!

Mike Johnson

Thank you for the questions and the discussion! I always learn from them too. And I didn’t think you were rude at all, no problem there. The best to you in your search for truth. 🙂

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