December 3, 2018 § 3 Comments
You can feel the frustration in these words by the writer of Hebrews: “By this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.” (5:12) “Let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.” (6:1)
The latest Christian artist to disappoint a lot of fans in a similar fashion is Lauren Daigle. The popular 27 year old singer from Louisiana with cross-over appeal recently appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show,(1) which many critics thought was a faith-compromising move since Ellen is a lesbian. Yet others saw justification in the opportunity to show love and offer a God-honoring anthem on such a high profile show. That made sense to me. But then, Lauren appeared on iHeartRadio’s The Domenick Nati Show(2) and was asked if she thought homosexuality was a sin. Her “answer”:
“I can’t honestly answer on that, in the sense of I have too many people that I love and they are homosexuals. I can’t say one way or the other, I’m not God. When people ask questions like that, I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know because I’m learning too.’”
Now, of course a Bible-believing Christian can and should answer on that. Having “too many people” in your life who are gay does not absolve you from the question, but rather makes the need to answer truthfully and gracefully even more urgent.
Of course we are not God—but God gave us His answer in the Bible (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:24-27, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Tim. 1:9-10). What you “find out for yourself” when you read Scripture should not be a different answer than what God’s word clearly reveals about homosexuality and sin, because truth is not relative.
Of course people can and already are letting Lauren know what the Bible says(3) in response to her perhaps rhetorical invitation: “When you find out let me know because I’m learning too.” The thing is, if her appeal for this knowledge is sincere, she is asking for something that, by the stage of her faith portrayed in her music, she should already know by now.
But that might be the reason we are so often surprised by a Christian musician who says something that seems to indicate a theological shift (or trajectories completely off the rails like the coming out of Jennifer Knapp, or the likes of Michael Gungor and former Newsboys frontman George Perdikis confessing Atheism). We gauge a musician’s theology and the maturity of their faith not by notes and chords but by lyrics. This makes sense, because we judge a Christian author by the words he writes. The difference is, so many—if not most—musicians do not write every word they sing. There are artists who write most or all of their own lyrics, but Lauren Daigle is not one of them.
This is not a big secret, but from Sinatra to Elvis to Elton John, a surprising (to me) lot of music legends had virtually nothing at all do with the words they sang. The majority co-wrote songs with one or more composers/lyricists. I’m honestly not sure what that looks like in the creative process. I’m sure it happens in a variety of ways (Is it, “You write verse one, I’ll write verse two, and she can work on the chorus…”? Or does Writer 1 do a first draft before passing it on to Writer 2 for development?). But in any case, artists who have the look, talent and voice have always used other writers’ material and not their own personal journals. They can’t be good at everything.
I browsed Lauren Daigle’s debut album at azlyrics.com(4). For the dozen songs on “How Can It Be” released in 2015, 14 unique writers are credited (notables include Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio). Lauren co-wrote only 8 of the songs, and each song has 2 to 5 people credited for lyrical content. Her latest (as of 2018) “Look Up Child” has 13 songs. Lauren’s name is listed alongside at least two other names on every song, most of which were co-written with Jason Ingram (her producer and songwriter for Bebo Norman, Point of Grace and others), Paul Mabury (Lauren’s drummer/producer), and sometimes Paul Duncan (songwriter for a number of Christian and Country musicians). None of Lauren Daigle’s songs are solely by Lauren Daigle. In “Lauren Daigle’s Story Behind the Song “How Can It Be”(5), the song that launched her career, Lauren tells how Paul Mabury brought her the song he co-wrote with Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson 9 months earlier(6).
I’m not saying Lauren Daigle isn’t talented or original, that her music isn’t amazing, or that it doesn’t lift up the name of Jesus just because others have heavily contributed to the lyrical content of her songs. But what this means is when we hear Lauren Daigle sing, we are not necessarily hearing her heart. And that’s likely true of most musicians.
No doubt Lauren approves of and likely agrees with the words that are published and sung by her. Her testimony about “How Can It Be” affirms that she deserved the worst (because all have sinned) and “God just completely ransomed me… In my sin and in my shame, He fought for me.” She appears zealously behind the grace and truth that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I don’t doubt Lauren Daigle is a Christian. But by her statements in that iHeartRadio interview, I doubt that she is as mature in her faith as suggested by the words she sings, which are, by normal industry practice, largely the work of others. During that interview, and faced with a pointed question about one of the most contentious social issues today, it was Lauren without a team of writers, composers or producers. It’s in that studio that we get her heart—and the surprises, because Christian singers really aren’t the sum of the words they sing. This talented artist, gifted with a beautiful and very public voice (and the accompanying responsibility) was put in a hard position. Sadly, she chose the easy answer—the non-answer—and that sings louder than song lyrics.
“Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know…” (Sung by Lauren Daigle; written by Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Lauren Daigle)
Here’s a “so what?”-type question to finish with: When a Christian artist starts to “evolve”/move away from Biblical beliefs, at what point, if any point, does their past, non-heretical music become unedifying or unusable for worship or personal enjoyment? (I wrote this post a while ago thinking along the same lines about preachers).
1) Straeter, Kelsey (2018, Nov. 2) Christians Slam Lauren Daigle for Singing on Ellen Since She’s Gay—Singer Claps Back With Pure Class. Retrieved from http://www.faithit.com/christians-slam-lauren-daigle-singing-ellen-gay-responds-pure-class
2) Domenick Nati Show (2018, Nov. 30). Lauren Daigle Doesn’t Know If Homosexuality Is A Sin. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/rXKHm_KPw6o
3) Dunn, Seth (2018, Dec. 2) To: Lauren Daigle Re: Sin/Homosexuality. Retrieved from https://pulpitandpen.org/2018/12/02/to-lauren-daigle-re-sin-homosexuality
4) AZ Lyrics. Lauren Daigle lyrics. https://www.azlyrics.com/l/laurendaigle.html
5) Daigle, Lauren (2014, Aug. 7) Lauren Daigle’s Story Behind the Song “How Can It Be”. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W1_02y3XMY
6) PraiseCharts (2016, Feb. 29) How Can It Be Song Story with Jason Ingram, Lauren Daigle and Paul Mabury. Retrieved from https://www.praisecharts.com/blog/how-can-it-be-song-story-with-jason-ingram-lauren-daigle-and-paul-mabury
July 14, 2017 § 2 Comments
Toward the end of a bike trail in Colorado Springs, I came upon an unexpected hill. During the exhausting climb, I noticed two women had set up a table displaying free Jehovah’s Witness material partway up the hill. I took the opportunity to stop and have a wonderful, Gospel-centered conversation with them—in my head 2 minutes after I rode past. I have also had great evangelical encounters with various atheists and agnostics, unfortunately many more in my head than in real life.
I’m not an extrovert, so a witnessing encounter (and robust social engagement in general) is not always easy for me. I recently have defended the deity of Christ in real-life conversation with some JWs at my house, so I had no particular fear of the two ladies on the hill—I just wasn’t about to stop in the middle of a hill (note to evangelists in public parks: set up at the top), and on top of that I had been-there-done-that with Watchtower propaganda. Maybe I should have at least stopped and said hello.
Have you ever had great talks with non-believers about Jesus in your head after you part company? Whether it’s because of nerves, or fear of rejection, or lack of confidence in your own knowledge of your faith, I think it’s probably a pretty common thing to pass up on these opportunities.
While we (and I mean ‘I’) need to set aside fear and rely on the Spirit of God to help in such situations, the mental conversations later (often occurring in the shower, for some odd reason) can serve as valuable training ground for the next real-life opportunity.
Here’s another conversation you didn’t have, but Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop near Denver, CO, did have with hosts on The View recently. On the spot, Jack actually did a very good job of defending his much-maligned decision not to design and create a wedding cake for a gay couple, a case that the Supreme Court has now agreed to hear. Jack says that everyone is welcome in his store, but he won’t make a cake for every event. He calmly and consistently defended the Biblical view of marriage and his Constitutional right to live out his faith in the public square. He was joined by his lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, who also does a great job of clarifying the case and its implications for every American.
Since we can learn from this conversation, imagine if you were in that hotseat surrounded by liberal talkshow hosts-turned-theologians, under the lights and cameras and studio audience cued to applaud after each progressive talking point. If you could freeze frame life for a few minutes to think about your answer (in lieu of thinking about it after the show), how would you respond to these questions?
Relax, you’re not in Jack’s spotlight, but one day you may be in a different one with your family, neighbor, boss, or a judge. Take some time to watch the segment yourself here. Below are the main questions thrown at Jack, and while his answers were good for on-the-spot responses, I’ll offer answers from an apologetic perspective, being safely out of the spotlight with plenty of time to process.
WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE?
The theologian on the far right (her chair, not her political position) asked Jack: “If it violates your religious freedom to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple… do you then, when a straight couple comes in, do you ask them if they’ve had a child out of wedlock, if they’ve had premarital sex? Where do you draw the line, because those all could be deemed ‘sinful’ (she throws up her air quotes) to someone who’s religious as well.”
The only reason anyone talks about Jesus was because “sin” is a real thing and the whole reason He came. Jesus died to redeem us from sin by sacrificing Himself on the cross.
But the issue here is not the sins of the couple, but that Jack is being forced to in effect join in the artistic celebration of something against his religious beliefs and stamp his name on the entire project. The line is drawn exactly where he drew it. Jack’s concern is not over whether a couple is sinning in some way, but the consequences of compromising his beliefs by his participation in a same-sex wedding ceremony. If anything, the marriage of a man and woman who are already having sex has a redemptive aspect to it in that the couple would no longer be sinning sexually, and would be providing a stronger foundation for any child that resulted. But the reason Jack refused is because he objects to the event in question.
WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE?
The theologian in the chair to the left (our left) of the first theologian: “One thing that’s always confused me about this is that in the Bible it says many things if you read it, and I was raised in the church, and it says, you know, ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman,’ but also says, ‘Don’t judge others.’ We’re not the final judgment. It also says ‘love thy neighbor.’ There are a lot of messages in there. How do you reconcile in your own spirituality, which ones to go with? Because in my mind, whether you believe it or not, and you should definitely not marry a man… but if someone else does, it’s not my place to judge them because God will…”
“The Bible says not to judge” is a frequent declaration by cherry-pickers. It’s found in Matthew 7:1-5: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (NIV)
In context, Jesus is condemning hypocrisy (don’t point the finger of judgment at others if you’re doing the same thing yourself), not the discernment between right and wrong behavior. We know there is a correct way to judge, because Jesus tells a group of Pharisees in John 7:24 to “stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
So to the question, “How do you reconcile which message to ‘go with’?”, the answer is study. Approach the Bible as you would any other book you want to understand and practice sound exegesis rather than pulling bits of verses out of context. Read, rather than read into. When we do, well see that Jesus was both love and truth, and there is no contradiction between “judge rightly” and “love your neighbor.”
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
The theologian to Jack’s right says, “I know that you’re a Christ-follower, and Jesus was even criticized by some of His followers for hanging out with the lowest of the low and the tax collectors and the sinners. Did you ever ask yourself, what would Jesus do in this particular situation? Instead of denying them, do you think Jesus would have said, ‘I don’t accept this, but I’m going to love you anyway?’ Do you think that would have had a more powerful testimony?” To which the theologian on the far left adds with conviction, “Jesus would have baked the cake!”
Jack rightly responds that Jesus would not bake the cake. We don’t have to guess what Jesus would say and do when we can read what He said and did. We know Jesus’ view of marriage from Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6, where He affirms God’s design for marriage from Genesis 1:27: “‘Haven’t you read… that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.'” (Mat. 19:4-6)
Supposing Jesus would have said, “I don’t accept this, but I’m going to love you anyway” assumes that love doesn’t mean we tell others the truth. We, made in God’s image, often try to remake Jesus in our own image and imagine God as love but not truth (at least the truth we find inconvenient). But as Jesus displayed, He is both. Jesus indeed did share a table with sinners, and as Jack proves, you can sit at a table with those who believe very differently without them hating or suing each other. But by compromising our beliefs and joining in the celebration of an event that defies God’s design for marriage, we are not loving anyone, but rather propagating a lie. That is actually hateful.
JUST BAKE THE CAKE!
The conversation turns from theological to legal at this point, with Kristen politely shooting down a slippery slope argument and clarifying that an assault on Jack’s religious liberty affects everyone regardless of their belief. But not before the theologian 2nd from the left puts this challenge to Jack: “Lower courts have found that you’ve discriminated against this couple, but you’re taking this fight to the Supreme Court. Why not just bake the cake?”
It’s always easier for those without a certain deeply held conviction to suggest those who do simply give it up when the going gets rough. But that’s not how Christianity has ever worked. Still, it’s an appropriate question to consider while we aren’t on the spot, can we compromise on this front while loving God and neighbor? Are we prepared to answer, while we can have the conversation safely in our heads, before we will eventually be asked, “Why not just bake the cake?”
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful…” (Hebrews 10:23)
April 11, 2015 § 9 Comments
Catholicism was perhaps the first or the most prominent religion to be known for its half-hearted followers, where we get the term “Cafeteria Catholics”. But I think all religions have their cafeteria believers, adherents inclined to pick and choose which doctrines to follow and which to ignore. This of course results in an incomplete theology that inevitably leads to self-contradiction and irrationality. And it acknowledges no authority but the cherry-picker’s.
In my town, just this past week, Dowling Catholic High School refused to bring volunteer track coach and substitute teacher Tyler McCubbin on full-time(1) because he is openly gay and engaged to another man. Postmodern culture is ripe for a response of surprise and dismay to a Catholic school desiring to remain consistently Catholic by insisting that its faculty hold to Catholic teaching on human sexuality and marriage. And predictably, folks were surprised and dismayed at Dowling.
As a private religious institution, this central Iowa school is protected in principal by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and by the exception for religious institutions under Iowa’s Civil Rights Act(2). Legally, they are allowed to hire or fire anyone according to their Catholic beliefs, and they can require faculty to hold to those beliefs as a condition of employment. While the applicant may claim to be Catholic, his views of sexuality don’t line up with orthodox Catholic doctrine, so that puts him out of the running. Rationally, if Dowling Catholic High School did not limit its hiring to Catholics, that would open the school up to Methodists, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, or Atheists. Morally, if Dowling abandoned its Catholic principals on sexuality and marriage, it would be abandoning principals that the Church has held for centuries and the world has held for millennia—not to mention God’s original revelation in Genesis 2:24 which both Church and State have historically recognized. Legally, rationally or morally, Dowling’s stance is the only one that keeps the school consistently Catholic. Is Dowling’s cessation from orthodoxy what the surprised and dismayed crowd want?
The non-Catholic progressives objecting to Dowling’s decision probably don’t care how the school projects its faith. Their agenda doesn’t really require the pondering of theological consequences. They want to jump at the opportunity and check off another obstacle to complete allegiance to the new moral revolution, where erotic liberty trumps religious liberty, and religious freedom is synonymous with discrimination and bigotry(3) (Religious freedom laws will likely be the the next target, as the recent stink over Indiana’s RFRA law indicated).
But what about Tyler McCubbin? Or the hundred or so Dowling students who staged a walk-out to peacefully protest the school’s discriminative hiring policy(4)? Or to the Dowling alumni, presumably also Catholic, asking the school and the Church to change? Aren’t these religious folks pondering the religious implications of their protest? Here’s where Cafeteria Catholicism comes in.
McCubbin reveals his understanding of the theology relevant to his case when he summarizes the school’s position: “What’s so shocking is in an institution where they preach tolerance and love and respect for everyone, no matter what your background is, they don’t uphold to those teachings.” What’s really shocking is that he doesn’t know or remember that Catholicism preaches more than those three things about this situation. It also teaches that homosexuality, and any other deviation from God’s plan for human relationships, is a sin, that marriage is for one man and one woman, and that love actually requires speaking the truth. Those were left on the buffet, so this applicant is apparently a Cafeteria Catholic.
What is the ideal final goal these protests hope to accomplish? With the utmost cordiality, I respectfully posted a question like this on the new “Dowling Catholic Alumni, Faculty, and Students Against Discrimination” Facebook page(5). A couple students and alumni responded that their pie-in-the-sky would be a gay-friendly hiring policy and a “safe space” for LGBTQ students at Dowling. I then asked if any space would be considered “safe” if the school still taught that homosexuality was a sin, and how such a change in hiring policy would settle with students when it also allowed Mormons, Muslims and Atheists to teach at Dowling. Immediately the comment thread disappeared and I was blocked from the group. Contemplating the endgame was too much I suppose; with the holes in their theology, continued rational discussion was not possible. These students and alums are apparently Cafeteria Catholics.
Openly gay Iowa Senator and Dowling graduate Matt McCoy has encouraged supporters of Dowling to close their checkbooks until the school changes its policy(6). He says of his alma mater, “They have many faculty members that are divorced. They have many faculty that have been involved in extramarital affairs, they have turned their head to other issues in society.” To that I would suggest that another wrong doesn’t make those right. IF faculty members are currently pursuing divorce or involved in extramarital affairs, the answer should be MORE consistency with Catholic doctrine, not less. Where there is hypocrisy, the solution is not to grow it. Mr. McCoy is apparently a Cafeteria Catholic.
The teachers and administrators at Dowling Catholic High School are not perfect. (There was at least some inconsistency evident in the screening process that allowed McCubbin’s gay lifestyle to go unnoticed when he was subbing, though arguably substitute teachers have less of an impact on students and may see less scrutiny as a result.) As an evangelical Christian I differ with Roman Catholics over some pretty fundamental doctrines because I believe they contradict what what the Bible says, particularly on matters of salvation, purgatory, the authority of the Pope, and the sole authority of Scripture.
But in terms of living consistently with one’s faith in a country founded on that right, no religious institution should be held to a standard of perfection (“All have sinned and fall short” anyway—Romans 3:23), but we should see a present pattern of striving for righteousness, systematic theology, and resistance to compromise. For those quick to speculate on the past sins of Dowling’s administrators, do they really expect a Catholic school to further its inconsistency and give up Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage? Some have expressed a hope that the Church itself will eventually change its opposition to homosexuality. But to expect a religious institution to change its theology on one or two things but keep the rest (for now) is to be totally okay with inconsistency, which is the appetite of “cafeteria faith”. Ultimately it leaves you hungry.
2) Chapter 216 Civil Rights Division (216.6, Section 6D)
March 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
On Monday, March 24th, World Vision International made a policy change and announced it via Christianity Today: “World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages.” If you’re not familiar with World Vision, they are one of the world’s largest Christian relief organizations, dedicated to working with children, families and their communities in nearly 100 countries to address the causes of poverty and injustice.
Below is an email I sent to World Vision President Richard Stearns the following day, followed by a string of brief responses, and ending with the announcement of a reversal of their decision. The quoted portions in my email are from his policy change announcement.
Dear Mr. Stearns,
I greatly respect the work World Vision is doing, and my wife and I have been supporters for nearly a decade. I was very disappointed to learn of your recent policy change to employ openly gay employees in openly homosexual relationships. This reflects a grave dishonesty and inconsistency for a organization that claims a “mission of building the kingdom” from the same Bible that lists homosexuals among many types of sinners who “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
I realize your focus is liberating children and families from poverty and injustice, and you view this issue as divisive and a distraction from that mission. It is divisive (all issues are) and may be distracting, but why do we have this responsibility to these children and families in the first place? Christians should hold to this mission because all people are made in the image of God. We get this understanding of God-given value and worth from the same Bible, in fact the same 2 chapters, that also tells us, clearly—albeit some in your base of support are not seeing so clearly—who we all are in terms of sexuality. The confusion over Gen. 2:24, Rom. 1:26,27 and 1 Cor. 6 lies in the presuppositions of the reader, not in the Word of God.
Your announcement noted that World Vision “will continue to expect abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage for all staff.” Why? That’s a divisive theological issue for many who may not see Biblical issues on sex so clearly. I don’t think it’s possible for you to “have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but…defer to the authority of local churches on this issue.” You have obviously made a ruling and thereby your endorsement. If you claim to operate on a theological mission you have a theological responsibility, even when it’s inconvenient in light of the culture. There is no meaningful distinction between being an “operational arm” and a “theological arm” of the church. Christians, organizationally and personally, can’t confirm sinners in their (and our own) sin. Sin is the very reason the world is plagued with poverty and injustice.
World Vision is in a great position to make this shift. Most sponsors who hold an uncompromising view of scriptural authority will not find a decision to move their funding to another organization easy, because we don’t want to leave any child (we sponsor two through World Vision) without support. I am as yet undecided what we will do if this policy remains in force. My purpose of this letter is to ask you to reconsider, for one, to alleviate your supporters from having to make that decision. But more importantly, I pray that you will clarify whose kingdom you are building, and which world your vision is for, by reversing course in your policy before it becomes impossible.
Thank you for hearing my appeal. I believe it to be truth spoken in love.
Dear Mike – thank you for your note. We are listening. This has been a very difficult day for us. Rich
Richard Stearns, President
Rich, thank you for listening, and for all that you do for the cause of Christ. I hope I wasn’t too harsh. Praying for your wisdom and courage (we all need it).
Dear Mike – thank you for your input. I wanted you to know that our board met this morning and we reversed our decision. Please see attached for more information. In Christ, Rich
Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.
We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.
In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.
We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.
While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.
Please know that World Vision continues to serve all people in our ministry around the world. We pray that you will continue to join with us in our mission to be “an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Richard Stearns, President
Wonderful! Thank you, Rich. I’m sure there will still be consequential fall-out by some, but I will be praying with ernest that the distractions will be minimal so you can get back to what you were called to do. I do appreciate all that you do and may the Lord bless you in your ministry, brother!
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7)
Clearly World Vision wrestled with Monday’s decision as soon as they made it. Reversing course was indeed the right thing to do and I’m glad they did, even if the reversal was motivated by potential financial loss from evangelicals. There’s no doubt that the initial policy change, even if it only lasted for two days, cost them sponsors and supporters, some who may never return. There are always consequences to bad decisions, even after we correct our course. Yet there is the grace from the God we serve, and He provides the courage to carry on in a world that would rather we give up the fight.
October 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
A bold worldview commitment in public figures is surprising these days. At least that’s the impression I got from a recent interview with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by New York Magazine’s Jennifer Senior. Scalia is a committed Catholic and Senior is an Atheist (how committed is uncertain).
Early in the interview the 27-year conservative judge talks about his ‘originalist’ approach to finding meaning in the U.S. Constitution. Originalism is “the belief that the United States Constitution should be interpreted in the way the authors originally intended it.”
Interviewer: Had you already arrived at originalism as a philosophy?
Scalia: I don’t know when I came to that view. I’ve always had it, as far as I know. Words have meaning. And their meaning doesn’t change. I mean, the notion that the Constitution should simply, by decree of the Court, mean something that it didn’t mean when the people voted for it—frankly, you should ask the other side the question! How did they ever get there?
Interviewer: But as law students, they were taught that the Constitution evolved, right? You got that same message consistently in class, yet you had other ideas.
Scalia: I am something of a contrarian, I suppose. I feel less comfortable when everybody agrees with me. I say, “I better reexamine my position!” I probably believe that the worst opinions in my court have been unanimous. Because there’s nobody on the other side pointing out all the flaws.
Interviewer: Really? So if you had the chance to have eight other justices just like you, would you not want them to be your colleagues?
Scalia: No. Just six.
Interviewer: That was a serious question!
Scalia: What I do wish is that we were in agreement on the basic question of what we think we’re doing when we interpret the Constitution. I mean, that’s sort of rudimentary. It’s sort of an embarrassment, really, that we’re not. But some people think our job is to keep it up to date, give new meaning to whatever phrases it has. And others think it’s to give it the meaning the people ratified when they adopted it. Those are quite different views.
Constitutional Originalism and Biblical Literalism are not quite the same thing. The Constitution is a man-made document prone to moral error, even though our intent was to base it on Biblical moral principals. In some rulings, Scalia at one point wishes he had a stamp that reads: “Stupid, but Constitutional.” It’s not perfect. Biblical Literalism seeks the original meaning of God’s Word, which is perfect. There is a process for changing the Constitution; there is no such process for the Bible.
Christians can relate to the common principal of the two: seeking the original intent of the author. Modern liberalism embraces relativism, attempting to operate on the self-defeating principal that there are no immutable principals. If we are going to say the Constitution has authority, we can’t interpret based on the intent of the interpreters over and against the authors, unless through ratification we become additional authors. Some may want to ratify Scripture, but the best that can be done is to disregard its authority. Actually, that’s the worst thing we can do (Genesis 3), but a secularized society is surprised when people like Scalia show a regard for authority and truth, and that meaning matters.
THE POPE’S COMMENTS ON DIVISIVE ISSUES
Interviewer: I’m not inviting you to run down the pope. But what do you think of his recent comments, that the church ought to focus less on divisive issues and more on helping the poor?
Scalia: I think he’s absolutely right. I think the church ought to be more evangelistic.
Interviewer: But he also wanted to steer its emphasis away from homosexuality and abortion.
Scalia: Yeah. But he hasn’t backed off the view of the church on those issues. He’s just saying, “Don’t spend all our time talking about that stuff. Talk about Jesus Christ and evangelize.” I think there’s no indication whatever that he’s changing doctrinally.
I spent my junior year in Switzerland. On the way back home, I spent some time in England, and I remember going to Hyde Park Corner. And there was a Roman Catholic priest in his collar, standing on a soapbox, preaching the Catholic faith and being heckled by a group. And I thought, My goodness. I thought that was admirable. I have often bemoaned the fact that the Catholic church has sort of lost that evangelistic spirit. And if this pope brings it back, all the better.
Interviewer: The one thing I did think, as he said those somewhat welcoming things to gay men and women, is, ‘Huh, this really does show how much our world has changed.’ I was wondering what kind of personal exposure you might have had to this sea change.
Scalia: I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual. Everybody does.
Interviewer: Have any of them come out to you?
Scalia: No. No. Not that I know of.
Interviewer: Has your personal attitude softened some [toward homosexuality]?
Scalia: I don’t think I’ve softened. I don’t know what you mean by softened.
Interviewer: If you talk to your grandchildren, they have different opinions from you about this, right?
Scalia: I don’t know about my grandchildren. I know about my children. I don’t think they and I differ very much. But I’m not a hater of homosexuals at all. I still think it’s Catholic teaching that it’s wrong. Okay? But I don’t hate the people that engage in it. In my legal opinions, all I’ve said is that I don’t think the Constitution requires the people to adopt one view or the other.
Interviewer: There was something different about your DOMA opinion, I thought. It was really pungent, yes, but you seemed more focused on your colleagues’ jurisprudence. You didn’t talk about a gay lobby, or about the fact that people have the right to determine what they consider moral. In Lawrence v. Texas, you said Americans were within their rights in “protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”
Scalia: I would write that again. But that’s not saying that I personally think it’s destructive. Americans have a right to feel that way. They have a democratic right to do that, and if it is to change, it should change democratically, and not at the ukase [a mandate or decree] of a Supreme Court.
Interviewer: Whatever you think of the opinion, Justice Kennedy is now the Thurgood Marshall of gay rights.
Interviewer: I don’t know how, by your lights, that’s going to be regarded in 50 years.
Scalia: I don’t know either. And, frankly, I don’t care. Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it. At least standing athwart it is a constitutional entitlement. But I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy.
With refreshing clarity, Scalia rightly reflects a Biblical view of homosexuality, separating the sin from the sinner, as well as that of the current law of the land: American citizens are not constitutionally obligated to accept homosexuality as normal. He is unashamed and unapologetic of this view, which is as he points out is nothing new in what the pope or his catholic church teaches. Popular opinion and the current “sea change” won’t change his conviction of unchanging truth.
HEAVEN, HELL, THE DEVIL AND JESUS
Interviewer: You believe in heaven and hell?
Scalia: Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
Scalia: Oh, my.
Interviewer: Does that mean I’m not going?
Scalia: [Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Interviewer: Wait, to heaven or hell?
Scalia: It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.
Interviewer: But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Scalia: Of course not!
Interviewer: Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
Scalia: I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?
Interviewer: Can we talk about your drafting process—
Scalia: [Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
Interviewer: You do?
Scalia: Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Interviewer: Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
Scalia: If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Interviewer: Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
Scalia: You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
Scalia: It’s because he’s smart.
Interviewer: So what’s he doing now?
Scalia: What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
Interviewer: That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the Devil’s work?
Scalia: I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.
Interviewer: Well, you’re saying the Devil is persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Scalia: Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament. … He got wilier.
Interviewer: Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
Scalia: You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
Interviewer: I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
Religion aside (if that’s possible), even conservatism implies that there us something in our convictions worth conserving. Even progressives are conservative in this way. Here we have a Supreme Court judge frankly talking theology, and nothing new and groundbreaking at that. Scalia implies that “mainstream America” believes in the Devil, but I think that depends on which mainstream America he means. Regardless, he is relaying simple, historic Christianity. Truthfully speaking your worldview is certainly permitted and particularly Constitutional. But it’s just that kind of boldness, spoken not only on Sundays, but in the context of Scalia’s career, that Secularism finds surprising and weird.
That may be the thing about Christian worldview conviction that surprises atheists the most. From a secular viewpoint, religion is something that ought to be compartmentalized to one area of your life, if you choose to be religious at all. But committed believers like Justice Scalia and other committed believers don’t relegate religion to church on Sunday or the confines of their family gatherings. We see his candid religious honesty and boldness on the job. And not just any job, but in a very high-profile public position with the United States government, a place many feel should above all be bereft of religiosity. Scalia living out his faith in public shocks Secularists. This reveals Secularism itself as a religion, one that is practiced seven days a week by it’s devoted adherents. No doubt, if worldview matters, we will carry it with us wherever we go.
April 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
Atheist Richard Dawkins recently tweeted, “The only religious people I fear are the ones who take their religion seriously: the ones who really believe what they say they believe.” It was re-tweeted well over a thousand times.
It doesn’t mean much to be “religious.” Even atheists can be religious. Apparently the fear factor brings significance to religion. The goal of Jesus’s followers is not to instill fear in anyone. God does that through an awareness, sometimes through Christians, that we are all, including Christians, an impossibly long way from righteousness by ourselves. That fear serves to drive us to the righteousness of Christ.
But fear is often felt in the face of anything we oppose. Nothing opposes the apathy of atheism and post-modern belief in flavor-of-the-month philosophy more than a firm conviction of truth. Belief naturally scares unbelief. It is indeed something to fear when you aren’t sure what else to be afraid of.
There are a great many feared Christians in the public square some would like to see removed from the public square.
Current stories abound, particularly over the issue of gay rights, of fearsome individuals such as Pastor Louie Giglio, who was invited to pray at the last presidential inauguration, but was soon ousted out of fear that he may still believe what he did 20 years earlier when he preached a sermon on homosexuality. Or Pastor Greg Laurie, who now faces the same type of outlier status for holding to millenia-old Biblical teachings. ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Iowa Senator Dennis Guth, and Johns Hopkins’ Dr. Ben Carson have recently faced similar backlash for holding to the same unchanging truths.
Teaching the Biblical view of sex and abstinence is now a “hurtful” and “dehumanizing” dogma, and conservatives are often feared as extremists.
Teaching the Biblical view of Creation is nothing new, yet it is now a form of child abuse or Taliban-style indoctrination, according to physicist Lawrence Krauss.
Sadly, there is no shortage of professing Christians who are no threat at all, who proclaim His name in word when convenient and in deed when the coast is clear. They are safe choices for product endorsement, commencement speeches, and political candidacy, because they will bend like putty to the whims of secularism and bow to the new moral consensus. Their moral compass is more of a windsock, changing direction with the times as feelings “evolve“.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)
If the world could hear you, would it fear you? Do you really believe what you say you believe? Will you still believe it 5, 10 or 20 years from now? Paul’s first century warning is realized. Morally compromised and doctrinally flexible teachers, preachers, presidents and CEOs are in high demand. We no longer want to be shocked, or have our feelings hurt, or have our ideas challenged by anyone who exhibits a consistent belief and unwavering stance on the Biblical truth that guided our predecessors.
God ultimately judges folly. Better to be firmly grounded in the truth and feared by some, than to preach on shifting sand and have God to fear when the foundation washes away.
March 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
Does something smell fishy about the Human Rights Campaign‘s “Stand For Marriage”? You may be detecting the foul malodor of the red herring. In the arena of rational discourse, a red herring is something that draws attention away from the central issue. The term comes from the practice of using fish to lay a false trail while training hunting dogs. A red herring is a diversion or distraction from the real issue. And it’s a favored recourse for those standing on a weak argument.
HRC’s recent logo memes voicing support for gay marriage carry on the familiar equal sign theme in an attempt to portray a movement toward equality and freedom. But is this really about “freedom for all“? For “equal rights for all people“? For “diversity of all kinds“? The Human Rights Campaign mission is more specific: “Working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.” But this goal is still exclusive and narrow. Even GLBTIQ leaves out 20 other letters.
Don’t be fooled by the red herring. Highjacking the civil rights banner because it worked to solve the legitimate problem of racial segregation 50 years ago, gay marriage is not about universal freedom or marriage equality or the American way. We are already equally free to marry any non-relative of the opposite sex we choose, and merely holding to the established, globally-affirmed, humanity-dependent, definition for marriage cannot possibly be hateful or bigoted. Gay marriage isn’t about that either. It’s about exchanging marriage for some other discriminative thing, something that does the opposite of marriage, something that prohibits human flourishing, weakens the family, endangers the normal development of children, and runs counter to the Creator’s design. And it stinks.