The Shack

In the previous post, I introduced the topic of professing Christians “shacking up”, or cohabiting before marriage. I brought up a few common arguments for why professing believers may think about “the shack up”, and then I laid the foundation on which there can be some sort of positive resolution to the issue: the authoritative word of God.

So if we can meet on that foundation, let’s spend a little time in the scripture.  We’re going to address some specific questions that will fence us in for arriving at an answer to the question of whether or not Christians should we move in together.

Q 1 – Does the Bible mention cohabitation?

A 1 – Not in the contemporary sense, no.

If we’re being honest, we don’t want to read anything into or out of the silence of the Bible on the issue, since arguments from silence aren’t actually arguments.

Now one could attempt to stretch the text in some places to attempt to speak to the issue, like Ruth 3:13. In Ruth 3:13, when Boaz wakes up and finds Ruth at his feet, he tells her to stay the night. Still, in Ruth 3:14 it reads “So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.’ ” So, if one were trying to stretch that passage, one cannot miss that both Ruth and Boaz knew how it would look if she was seen coming out of his threshing floor early in the morning. That recognition of appearances is, in itself, suggestive, but not exactly a firm statement on the topic at hand.

There are a few other texts that a person could attempt to stretch, but the result is the same. The harder you stretch a text, the more the text is disfigured.

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The Shack

“The Shack Up”?  Is that the sequel to “The Shack”?

Not quite.

I’m talking about the idea of cohabitation before marriage.

I’m talking about “moving in” with your boyfriend/girlfriend before you actually get married.

I’m talking about the “try before you buy” idea.

Now, I’m not writing for non-Christians here (as if too many will end up here or care what I say), but rather those people who profess Christ and still think that “moving in together” is a legitimate option for professing Christians.  I’m addressing those men and women who attend a church and would call themselves “Christians”.  I’m addressing people out there who at least claim, at some level, to believe the Bible and follow Christ. Continue Reading…

SkiSchoolMeetingPlaceFrom work, to education, to recreation, much of our lives revolve around discovering our faults so as to develop ourselves. We pay professors to identify our errors in math, science, and writing. We pay individuals to identify flaws in our golf swing, fitness routine, and our skiing. If I want to know how to eat better, I can get a nutritionist consultation for $100/hr. In all, we approach individuals, even complete strangers, with a teachable demeanor, and pay them to identify and correct faults.

I wonder if we are as eager to take that approach with some of the more important things of our lives. Are we as welcoming to input into our marriage and ministry as we are our golf swing and crossfit routine? Do we demonstrate the same teachability with our fitness lessons as we do with our christlikeness? Are we as open to receiving reproof about our character as we are our investment strategies?

When we enter into God’s family by faith in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ, we enter into a life of change. God loves his children so much that he will not leave us as we are. Shaping us into the image of Christ is his unfailable goal. Among other things, this necessitates that we maintain a teachable spirit until God takes us to heaven.

The following is a brief refresher on why we need to maintain a humble, teachable demeanor:

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The Word of God is far from silent on what eternity will be like in the eternal heaven (i.e. the New Earth). But why has God seen fit to reveal these truths to His people?

There are at least three reasons why the future reality of heaven ought to influence believers in the present. These might be summarized as: hope, holiness, and the honor of God.

001Hope. The reality of heaven provides hope for the future, even in the face of trials or death. Thus Paul could tell the Thessalonians that believers do not grieve “as the rest of the world who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). As Charles Spurgeon observed:

The very happiest persons I have ever met with have been departing believers. The only people for whom I have felt any envy have been dying members of this very church, whose hands I have grasped in their passing away. Almost without exception I have seen in them holy delight and triumph. And in the exceptions to this exceeding joy I have seen deep peace, exhibited in a calm and deliberate readiness to enter into the presence of their God.

Writing about his trials, the apostle Paul similarly explained to the Corinthians, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Because believers know what the future ultimately holds, they can face the temporal troubles of this life with confidence and courage. Continue Reading…

Hamlet said it eloquently:doubting the truth

Doubt thou the stars are fire,

Doubt that the sun doth move,

Doubt truth to be a liar,

But never doubt I love.”

 

It’s not great theology, but makes a pretty rhyme. And the poem touches on a universal theme: what can we really believe for certain?

Doubt is a haunting reality in the lives of many churchgoers. Perhaps they are uncertain of  their salvation, or they question the veracity of Scripture, or maybe even at times doubt that there is a God. Are these doubters saved? Isn’t the definition of a Christian one who trusts in Jesus? Can a person be a believer while maintaining disbelief or unbelief?

I find it helpful to distinguish between the variegated species of doubt that lurk in our hearts. B. B. Warfield acknowledged that when discussing doubt there are…

…shades of meaning expressed by our words: perplexity, suspense, distractions, hesitation, questioning, skepticism, shading down into unbelief.”

Let’s meet five doubters.

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God and the Gay ChristianAs the Supreme Court has recently heard arguments regarding a federal mandate that would legalize homosexual “marriage,” it’s important for the church to be equipped to defend their position from Scripture. True Christians are not against gay “marriage” because we are mean-spirited, bigoted misanthropes who love to force our opinions on others. We are against gay “marriage” because God Himself is against it, and He has told us so in His Word, the God-breathed Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16–17). Scripture tells us that to embrace homosexuality as spiritually permissible is to commit (or help others to commit) eternal suicide. And no one who truly loves homosexuals would ever be a part of that.

Because God has spoken on this issue, it falls to the church to herald His Word on the matter. Passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are clear:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • 1 Timothy 1:9–11 – realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

However, those who would argue that homosexuality and Christianity are not mutually exclusive argue that these clear passages have been mistranslated. The word translated “homosexuals” in each of these verses is arsenokoitēs, and, the argument goes, that original Greek word doesn’t refer to “committed same-sex relationships” but “abusive male-male” relationships. Such an argument has been widely popularized by author John Boswell, whose arguments, though refuted by Robert A. J. Gagnon, are constantly marshaled by liberals as evidence of the compatibility between homosexuality and Christianity.

For example, I came across a post from Dr. Gagnon’s Facebook page (courtesy of James White) in which a commenter sought to advance this argument. (The following is lightly adapted for readability and accuracy, as the commenter misspelled numerous Greek words a number of times.)

“There is adequate evidence through exegesis of the Scripture and through transliteration of the words in question that supports the view contrary to your belief. 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9–10 refer to abusive male-male relationships. As I’m sure you know, the former contains the Greek words malakoi and arsenokoitai and the latter contains only arsenokoitai. They each have, within certain translations, been falsely translated to the word homosexual, as these words are not a reference to homosexuality per se, and certainly not a reference to loving, committed, same-sex unions. Other Greek literature of the same period of time supports the view that arsenokoitai makes reference to a male-male relationship with an imbalance of power, for example a pederastic relationship.

Greek Manuscript“Generalising arsenokoitai to refer to all gay men and women is entirely incorrect. Its meaning is akin to that of men who abuse their power, economic or otherwise, to have sex with another (usually younger and weaker) male, or to humiliate another male. It may even be seen as an inadvertent reference to sodomites in the true sense of the word, being those who wanted to use male-male rape as an act of abuse, hence the term ‘homosexual offender’ in the NIV. The arsenokoitai often took advantage of younger male prostitutes; malakoi is translated to male prostitutes in the NRSV. The arsenokoites was the active male in the pair and, as I’m sure you know, such cult-temple prostitution was very common in the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s time. This is what Paul was referring to.

“On a final note John Boswell suggests in Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: ‘Perhaps the most extensive evidence that arsenokoitai did not connote “homosexual” or even “sodomite” in the time of Paul is offered by the amount of writing extant on the subject of homoerotic sexuality in Greek in which this term does not occur. It is extremely difficult to believe that if the word actually meant “homosexual” or “sodomite” no previous or contemporary author would have used it in a way clearly indicated with this connection’ (1980: 345).”

Here’s my question to all Christians who argue based on Scripture that homosexuality is a sin: How would you respond to this kind of argument?

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Baltimore Landscape We love Baltimore and it saddens all of us to see what has transpired in the last few days.  The senseless acts of vandalism, looting, arson and destruction of our own neighborhoods, in addition to violent attacks against innocent by-standers and the public servants of our city, have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with the depravity of the sinful human heart. Any claim to be concerned about justice cannot be taken seriously while a CVS is burnt to ashes and cinderblocks are thrown at keepers of the peace.

Baltimore CVSThe criminal behavior that has caught international media attention, has nothing to do with supporting a grieving family (the family has already condemned the violence).  It has nothing to do with honoring the memory of a deceased loved one (only a small fraction of the protesters even know who Freddie Gray is).  Even less are these disgraceful acts about social programs, better education, or equal opportunities. Rather, this is what happens when the fear of lawful authority is removed and we are allowed to peer into the darkness of the heart. Continue Reading…

nowOpening up the news this week was like being on the receiving end of a quadruple gut-punch. Across the global and national landscape are wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, people proceeding from bad to worse, and the love of pleasure over the love of God.

And then, as many of you can relate, opening up my email was no more soothing. Locally, many of us are witnessing people shipwreck their faith, making their belly their god, glorying in their shame, and holding to a form of godliness, but denying its power, to name a few things. Pile on that the personal trials many of us are experiencing right now, and it’s almost too much.

“Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).

Certainly these are times when sparks are soaring.

But how do we keep our minds from going off the deep-end? Here are a few reminders to tether our thoughts in times of profuse spark-ascending:

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Yesterday, The Master’s Seminary announced that it is planning to open its first extension campus this fall in the Washington D.C. area.

In the words of seminary president, Dr. John MacArthur: “We have an obligation to train men for ministry in the context of strong local churches, and this extension site allows us to do just that. In higher education there is a trend toward extension campuses because they allow educational standards to be lowered. Our model is different. We are not going forward with an extension program to make seminary education easier, but only to make it closer.”

The extension campus will be hosted by Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Virginia, just inside the beltway. Classes will be held in varying formats. Some will be fully-integrated through HD video and real-time two-way communication with the main Los Angeles campus, enabling students in Washington D.C. to fully participate in learning and discussions. Other classes will be taught in person, by TMS professors on-site at the extension campus.

Students will receive the same caliber of education and discipleship that they would in Los Angeles. For many, however, this will enable them to remain in the D.C. area and continue their ministries to local churches. Prospective D.C. area students may apply at http://www.tms.edu/dc-campus/.

The D.C. extension campus will open this fall, pending final approval from WASC (the Western Association of Schools and Colleges).

THE MASTER’S SEMINARY D.C. CAMPUS CONTACTS

Jesse Johnson, Dean / jjohnson@tms.edu

Justin Harris, Extension Campus Director / jharris@tms.edu

Jamie Jackson, Online Education Facilitator / jjackson@tms.edu

The news in South Africa last week has read like a macabre sequel to Alan Paton’s haunting novel Cry, the Beloved xenophobia graphicCountry. Paton, in 1948, portrayed a disturbing dystopia of incipient segregation between Whites and Blacks in South Africa that would burgeon into the institutionalised racism of Apartheid.

What is unfolding today is the beating, robbing, and execution of immigrants from other African countries.

The news headlines call it xenophobia. That is a misnomer. Xenopobia, which connotes a benign fear of diversity, is defined as “the dislike of, or prejudice against, foreigners.” It’s a sub-category of racism because it is hatred by some (albeit a minority) of Black South African citizens of Black foreigners.

But what is happening in Johannesburg and Durban should more accurately be called xenocide.

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