Thursday, November 15, 2018

Abortion, and Why Christians Can't Vote Democrat

While I unabashedly admit that I am politically conservative, I don’t think there are a lot of political issues that have a set Christian viewpoint. I’m not ready to say, “Jesus would have lowered taxes,” or something to that effect. And I think it is important to not make political views into biblical views if there’s not a scriptural backing.

But there is one that, so I’d think, is pretty clear in scripture. Abortion is more than just a political issue, but it is that, and it is typically an issue surrounding elections.

In writing this, I am operating under the assumption that a Christian is anti-abortion. If you as a Christian support abortion, I’d encourage you to check out a book I read, a collaboration of some great writers. It’s called the Bible. It might change your perspective.

So assuming there is a basic understanding of human equality in God’s eyes, we have to take the practical step in our political decision-making.

Christians, you can’t vote for Democrats.

I’m not saying that voting Democrat makes you not a Christian or implies you aren’t a Christian, because the candidates we vote for don’t determine our salvation, though I all but heard it in 2016. In fact, I have well-respected and good friends that have done so.
Photo via The Odyssey Online

Nor am I saying that being a Christian means you have to vote Republican. I know on the surface this seems partisan, but I’m not saying to be Christian is to be Republican, and I’m not saying don’t vote for Democrats just because they’re Democrats. I’m saying don’t vote Democrat because of what they support, and if Republicans were pro-abortion I’d say don’t vote for them. It just happens, in this case, that an entire political party is wrong. (And like the Planned Parenthood and NARAL endorsements, it makes knowing who not to vote for a little easier.)

Now, like I said, I disagree with the Democratic Party on a lot of issues. (To be fair, while I agree with a good part of the Republican Party’s platform, they have a knack for choosing nominees who either don’t share some of those beliefs or are too cowardly to do anything about them. We waited two years with no repeal of the Affordable Care Act, no defunding of Planned Parenthood, etc.) Most of these issues, however, are not gospel issues.

But it’s different with abortion. There is such an obvious answer in scripture and it strikes at God’s heart by killing innocent humans created in His image.

I’ve heard the argument that abortion is but one of many issues and shouldn’t make or break a vote. I’ve even heard actively pro-life people made fun of for being “single-issue voters.” Consider this.

If a candidate lines up with us on everything else, but supports the legal killing of Jews, would we vote for him? If everything else checked out but she thinks it should be legal to kill black people, should we vote for her? If he thinks killing the elderly because we don’t want to take care of them is morally acceptable or even good, should we vote for him?

I mean, it’s only one issue, people. So he’s wrong on that little issue of killing innocent people if they meet or fail to meet certain criteria, but his economic policy is great. He wants to waive our student loans and he really knows what he’s doing with national security. Why should supporting the legalized killing of a group of human beings be a deal-breaker when he has so much else going for him?

If that is a deal-breaker, and we believe the preborn are equal to us and deserving of the same protection, why is it okay to vote for someone who supports the legalized killing of one group of human beings but not ones who support killing other groups of human beings?

The problem in the church is that we pay lip service to the equality of the preborn, but we don’t actually believe it. Otherwise support for the killing of a group of innocent human beings would be appalling enough to make everything else not matter. While Planned Parenthood is lying with their “3 percent” line, even that small amount would moot any positive contributions and make them evil. The same is true of candidates.
Photo via The Odyssey Online

Now, what about that rare Democrat who is anti-abortion? I would ask a follow-up. Will he/she still back the Party in relevant decisions? For example, in the 2009 vote for Speaker of the House, where the Democratic majority selected Nancy Pelosi, the known pro-life Democrats in the House—Collin Peterson, Henry Cueller, and Daniel Lipinski—all voted for Pelosi. The Speaker has enormous power in determining what legislation comes to a general vote, and I would question where these men prioritize their anti-abortion beliefs if they want a Speaker who will do all she can to prevent pro-life legislation from having a chance. Supporting the Party who holds to a pro-abortion view will stifle any progress to prevent the injustice.

Pro-life Democrats are going the way of the Whigs, so this probably won’t be a huge issue in the future. While I would not automatically discount a pro-life Democrat, I would hesitate to determine that his/her commitment to life is greater than his/her commitment to the Party.

But for the vast majority of Democrats, there is a commitment to the legality of abortion. We saw how far they’ll take it during the Kavanaugh deliberations. They’re much more committed to death than the Republicans are to life.

We need to repent of our complacency or complicity as this injustice continues to take place.

I’m not going to shun you or question your salvation if you’re voting for Democratic candidates. But I will question you on how you can consider the preborn our equals when you’re voting for candidates who vow to make sure they keep dying.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Lessons from Paul's Sojourn in Corinth

Our definition of success and God’s definition of success don’t always match.

Have you ever had that moment when the Spirit tells you to talk to a person, and they completely reject what you have to say? It has left me asking why God put me there in the first place. I’ve seen this before in my life. The Spirit tells me to go talk to someone and he completely rejects what I have to say. Did I pollute God’s voice with my own thoughts? If not, God, why did You put me up to this in the first place?

Ancient Corinth. Picture via Realm of History.
When Paul came to Corinth from Athens, his ministry initially seemed mild. He was making tents with Aquila and Priscilla and reasoning in the temple for a while. But then God called Him to something more.
And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. –Acts 18:5-6

Being “pressed in the spirit” is from the Greek word sunechó, which means “to be held fast,” “to be seized,” “oppressed,” “afflicted,” or “constrained.” It does not directly tell us that this is of the Spirit, but it’s a logical jump to make. An individual with a close walk with God will experience being “pressed in the spirit” by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was urged to go all out in preaching the gospel to the Jews in Corinth. But, in our eyes, he saw no success. The Jews in Corinth opposed him and blasphemed.

It could have been easy in that moment to look at what transpired as failure. His goal was to convert, and it didn’t happen. But we have to look at it with Heaven’s eyes.

Think of the wider, long-term consequences. This was a huge moment in Paul’s ministry for two reasons. First, the Jews in Corinth heard the gospel. That’s never a bad thing, no matter the reaction. Now, if they choose to reject Christ, they do it in full knowledge, and no one else can be blamed for their unbelief. They were given the opportunity, and that’s all we’re responsible for.

Second, this was when Paul doubled down on bringing the gospel to the Gentiles, which was still a fairly new thing. It was a watershed moment that illuminated Paul’s path that God had laid for him.

William Borden. Picture via The Traveling Team.
It’s not that God used failure. There was no failure. We define success in numbers or stories. God defines it in obedience. He knows the end. We have to trust Him, obey Him, and leave the consequences to Him.

We could look at the lives of people like William Borden or David Brainerd. Surely dying in your 20’s before your ministry takes off is a failure. Surely being born into poverty and the victim of abortion attempts is failure. Surely Joseph being a slave and a prisoner for years is failure. Surely Jeremiah’s ministry of being ignored and ridiculed was failure. But in all these things God had a purpose.

Surely a man’s ministry ending in crucifixion is failure. But it was our salvation.

God’s ability to exercise His Providence is not predicated on our understanding. Our following Him is never failure.

The lesson to learn from Paul’s time in Corinth is that the Spirit will call us to do things that will end in failure in the world’s eyes. We have to trust that God sees the bigger picture and has a reason for what might seem futile in our eyes.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

You Can't Cry "Believe Women" When You Vote for Hillary Clinton

A couple weeks ago, my friend Joe and I, long-time partners in crime, were counter-protesting a Women’s March event in Columbus against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. My issue was not with the “Me Too” movement or any number of other issues (I disagree with their economic views, but that’s hardly worth my time). My specific issue was that one of their principal points of opposition of Kavanaugh was their fear that he would be the deciding vote in overturning Roe v. Wade (which I am not so quick to believe).

While we were there, outnumbered about 75-2, a number of protestors attempted to block us and our signs. This gave me the opportunity to have a captive audience; if they left, I wasn’t blocked. If they didn’t, they were going to hear what I had to say.

Photo via
Besides sharing the gospel, which is the most important thing to do in that situation, I was able to have a small conversation with a man probably only a few years younger than me. I asked him what his goal was in being out there. Was it an intrinsically-focused event to rally supporters, or was the purpose to win others over to their side?

“We want to win people over,” he said.

“I know I’m not the easiest target since I’m directly opposing you,” I responded, “But if you’re trying to convince others you’re right, why are you trying to hide an opposing view instead of discuss it?”

That’s exactly why I’m writing this. I thought I was done with the topic. But as I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that these individuals really can’t claim the high ground on this issue. Their marked hypocrisy revealed itself to me.

“Believe women” and “I’m with Her” are wholly incompatible statements.

I’m not saying this to be partisan or blast people. I’m saying it because I’m telling you all that your inconsistency on this issue leaves you with no credibility when you talk about it. I’m saying it as someone who does not share your views as a warning. We’re not buying the act. If your goal is to convince us, you’re not doing it.

And I think a lot of conservatives did not handle this well either, lacking in sensitivity. In 2016, we had the choice between a presidential candidate who uses women and disrespects them openly, and a presidential candidate who is probably a greater menace to women, especially those that have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. We all want to jump up and claim we care about victims and care about women, then we go out and vote for one of these candidates. I’m not buying it.

An Instagram post of mine from around the time of the election
It is well documented that Bill Clinton is about as big a scumbag as one could find in politics, which is an astounding feat considering the competition. I tip my hat to him. But also documented, although more hidden, are the actions of Hillary, who rode Bill’s coattails into politics at the expense of anyone who might get in the way of her ambition, including her husband’s trail of affairs and assaults.

There was the time she called Gennifer Flowers, one of the women with whom her husband had an affair, “trailer trash” in an ABC interview. She is “some failed cabaret singer who doesn’t even have a resumé to fall back on.” She also told Esquire that if she could cross-examine Flowers, she “would crucify her.”

When stories mounted of various affairs Bill had, Hillary called it a “bimbo eruption.”

There was the time Bill sent a state trooper to approach a woman on his behalf, seeking to have sex with her, and Hillary said “we have to destroy her story.”

She characterized Monica Lewinsky as a “narcissistic loony toon.”

Of course, there were the times that as an attorney Hillary led by example in the call to “believe women.” As she defended an alleged rapist, she wrote that the 12-year-old alleged victim “is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing.” She was taped laughing about the way she had vital evidence dismissed. “[The defendant] took a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs.”

Then there was the time she cornered Juanita Broaddrick after she accused Bill of rape, “thanking” her for “everything” she had done for Bill, squeezing her hand when she tried to walk away and repeating it more forcefully.

Of course, in her own words, all of this was just a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

You all don’t need me to tell you that Bill is a scumbag and Hillary covers for it. The couple is a real-life epitome of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. They use people and then retreat behind their wealth, avoiding the consequences.

Only this last time, the consequences weren’t entirely avoided. You have to be the worst presidential candidate in history to lose an election to Donald Trump. People saw through her. She had a point when she called out Trump for his treatment of women, but he had a point when he flipped it back on her.

And that’s what I’m here to say. That 12-year-old who Hillary fought against in a rape case returned fire later in life. “And you are supposed to be for women? You call that for women, what you done to me?”

I sat here for weeks listening to the cries to “believe women.” I looked at it with a cool head. Yes, we need to take seriously claims of sexual assault. But blind belief in the face of little evidence is dangerous.

But what struck me is that the people championing the “believe women” mantra had absolutely no credibility, at least the majority of them that voted for Hillary Clinton. When women came out with allegations against her husband, she did everything in her power to silence them. She called them “sluts” and “bimbos” and threw other creative insults. She cornered them in public. She defended alleged rapists in court. And when she gets called on it, she says the allegations against her husband were different than those against Kavanuagh.

Now it all makes sense. Photo via New York Times
She’s right; the allegations against Bill were much more credible.

Still, she just won’t believe women.

Even if Hillary Clinton was not guilty of the outright coverups and disgusting statements about Bill’s victims, she still broke the rules in the liberal game. She didn’t believe women. She doesn’t trust women. The very fact that Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, and Leslie Millwee say that they were sexually assaulted and sexually assaulted by a certain man is enough. End of discussion. We have to trust them. No one would ever lie about such a thing.

So I’m sorry, but when people who vote for someone like Hillary Clinton rant about the need to believe women, I don’t buy it. It’s disingenuous. It’s intellectual dishonesty. I’m not fooled.

This was never actually about believing women. It was about political gain and protecting the crown jewel of legislation from the Bench.

Two years ago, Democrats, you voted for someone with an abhorrent record on treatment of sexual assault victims. You chose someone who is the polar opposite of the “believe women, regardless of the evidence” principle. But now you jump on others who wanted to be careful not to hang an innocent man by first investigating whether there was any truth to the allegations. Where was the cry to believe women at the polls that day?

Or maybe that principle only applies when you’re trying to keep abortion legal.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Legitimacy Behind a "Me Too" Movement, and Why This One Has Lost It

I didn’t want to write this. I really hoped this movement would stay on the rails of legitimacy. There was a problem that has left a lot of scars in its wake.

Source: ABC News
The concept of a Me Too movement is not a bad one. It encourages women to find support, and offer it as well, and encourages them to speak out against the perpetrators. And yes, I as a large, gun-toting man will probably never experience sexual assault, at least not in its traditional definition.

The most I can offer is my sympathy and support. I have a lot of close female friends, and I would be devastated if anything happened to them, let alone the effect on them. I can’t overstate the sickness of sexual assault. I think rape should still be a capital offense.

I say all that because I do not want to be mistaken as simply dismissing this movement or this issue. But for God’s sake, we have to be fair.

There are two ways that this Me Too movement has gone off the rails, despite all the potential. I’ll cover the less timely one first.

The Dilution of the Definition of Sexual Assault

The “one in five women” mantra has been trumpeted by the Party of Bill Clinton to score points in elections. But it’s from a survey that covered two campuses with a sample size of less than 6,000, which though it might seem large is not a large enough sample size to deduce something about such a large group. There was a low survey participation of those the researchers tried to survey, and it included questions “about events that you think (but are not certain) happened.” Never did it ask directly if someone had been raped.

That’s not to say there’s no problem. But the survey is consistent with the watering down of the meaning of sexual assault. “If you think you might have had sex while you were drunk, we’ll call it rape.”

There have been many tragic stories that have come out of this movement. One that sticks with me is the story of one of my favorite women’s basketball players. We’ve seen countless victims of men like Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar.

WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart, whose heart-wrenching Me Too story was
featured in the Players' Tribune. Source: Players' Tribune
I don’t speak for those victims, but I think it does them a disservice to cast the net so wide. Sexual harassment is terrible, but it isn’t rape. Being touched inappropriately is just as bad or worse, but it isn’t rape. Again, it doesn’t mean there’s no problem or that lesser things aren’t bad too, but we can’t expand the definition of sexual assault so wide that it isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. And yes, that is ultimately on those that choose to take it less seriously, but diluting its meaning opens the door for those problems.

Destruction of Due Process

Speaking of opening doors, this one has been opened with a bulldozer. I can’t and won’t deny that throughout history rape has not been taken seriously, and in some circles still isn’t. Hence why a Me Too movement that doesn’t go rogue is not a bad thing.

I am not going to trash Dr. Ford or any other accusers of Brett Kavanaugh. I am not going to stake a claim that he is for sure innocent of those accusations. That is because, outside of a handful of people, no one knows.

But that’s not what we’re hearing. “If she says it, it happened.” “Believe the victims.” We’ve lost our heads. We’re willing to drag a man through the mud on the word of a woman who has a fuzzy memory of 35 years ago.

Harvey Weinstein and some of his victims. Source: Malay Mail
And I don’t even like Brett Kavanaugh. I don’t think he was a good choice. I would have rather seen Amy Coney Barrett (and try accusing her of sexual assault). It would be somewhat amusing if Kavanaugh was denied and Barrett took his place, a much more known quantity on some key issues.

But I don’t want to see that happen by someone being railroaded. There are reasons that would make me lean towards Kavanaugh being innocent. The timing is impeccable; after 35 years and weeks after President Trump’s announcement, now we get an accusation. Perhaps it took that long for the Democrats to dig someone up who knew Kavanaugh when he did some dumb stuff as a teenager. And it is not lost on me that this is the swing vote. Justice Gorsuch replaced another conservative justice. This time it’s Justice Kennedy, who has consistently voted in favor of “reproductive rights,” the affectionate term for dismembering human beings. As we’ve seen over years in the news and as I’ve seen personally, liberals pull out all the stops in defense of the blessed sacrament of the progressive church. What is one man’s reputation when killing babies is at stake?

So I lean that way, but I don’t know. None of the Democrats on Capital Hill or any other liberals do either, but that won’t stop them. And frankly, the conservatives don’t either. It’s a dangerous thing to shut down a woman’s accusations without investigating them. And it’s also a dangerous thing to presume a man’s guilt, and take it further by letting nothing sway you otherwise. Any of us are vulnerable when the standard of proof is nonexistent.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Source:
This is where blindly believing an accuser gets us. VanDyke Perry served 11 years in prison for rape and Gregory Counts 26 for being wrongfully convicted or rape. Clifford Jones served almost 30 before being exonerated. Lawrence McKinney served 31. The list could go on, and those were with “due process.” These are wild accusations. It’s a motif of To Kill a Mockingbird. The Party of prisoners’ rights is the one telling us to have unconditioned trust in accusations. People accuse others of things they didn’t do all the time. It’s dangerous to simply believe it. And it costs some people an awful lot.

I’m trying to be reasonable and sensitive here, though I’m sure people are still angry. That’s the society we live in. It’s easier to silence opposition than to answer it. But I thought it important enough to say something that I wrote this outside of my usual two-week pattern I keep to avoid devoting too much time away from studies and ministry.

I’m not saying sexual assault isn’t an issue. I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to women who say they are victims. I am saying that we shouldn’t make other victims. Because if Dr. Ford and others are lying, Brett Kavanaugh and his family are the only victims. Every man falsely accused and assumed guilty is a victim.

We have to keep our heads. I think the premise behind the Me Too movement is important.

But this one has gotten it wrong.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Miscarriages Are Not the Same as Abortions, and It's a Pitiful and Appalling Claim to Make

It’s one of the most hideous analogies I hear from a group that has mastered hideous analogies.

“Why are you so upset about abortion? Embryos die in miscarriages all the time.”

“Abortion,” in its denotation, is in fact a neutral word. And a miscarriage is a “spontaneous abortion.” But, of course, that’s not what is meant. Most people aren’t familiar with those terms.

No, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison of two tragedies in which the result is ultimately the same, but the culpability and preventability is drastically different.

One is a natural loss of a child that often leaves parents feeling helpless. The other “empowers” a mother by allowing her to hire a hit man to butcher her child.

Harsh words, I am aware, but I don’t think we do the preborn, or the women who might make the same mistake too many others have, any favors by making our descriptions of abortion PG.

An abortion is, typically, a willing choice. Sometimes it is coerced, and those women are just as much the victim. Abortion being a choice does not mean there aren’t complicated and sometimes tragic circumstances around that choice. It does not mean that a parent is fully informed. It does not mean that post-abortive women, or women considering abortion, should be demonized. But it does mean that there is a fundamental difference between the choice of abortion and the uncontrollable event of a miscarriage.

A miscarriage is equally as tragic; it is the loss of a child. But it is unpreventable. There is no willing choice. It just happens.

It is sickening to take advantage of women who suffer such a loss by using their circumstance as a justification for abortion. They did not have a choice. Most wouldn’t have made the choice. But, that’s what the pro-abortion side does. It uses rape victims to try to justify the other 99 percent of abortions. It uses indigent women to try to justify all abortions. The side that champions women’s equality uses the most tragic circumstances women face in an attempt to bolster their arguments. Sadly, many take the bait.

This article is not written out of judgment of women who have aborted, but out of advocacy for the women that have miscarried. I know some of these women. Their loss of their child is not to be lumped in with the often-willing murder of a child in a fruitless attempt to justify the latter.

Some people are killed accidentally when they are hit by a car, so we should be okay with running down pedestrians in crosswalks.

A garden in memory of children lost to miscarriage and
women who have experienced it, at the
National Memorialfor the Unborn in Chattanooga, Tennessee
The unpreventable deaths of individuals does not justify the intentional death of individuals. Such a claim sounds absolutely mindless in any other scenario. People die of disease, so we should intentionally infect others. People fall off cliffs, so we should be fine with throwing others off cliffs. People die in their sleep, so we shouldn’t have a problem smothering them with pillows. It doesn’t make sense in any other context. Yet for some reason, we’ll justify the intentional killing of the preborn by saying, “Sometimes they die naturally, too.”

One wonders how much thought is actually put into these arguments. To salvage my view of humanity, I hope not much. It is a pretty sad argument to have thought about for any length of time. From anti-abortion outreach on the streets, I have seen people jump through several totally different justifications for abortion in a matter of minutes, so it’s certainly plausible. When you start with the premise of abortion being morally justifiable, you’ll come up with anything to convince yourself.

Abortion takes a unique individual who, for all we know, would have been carried to term. It takes that individual, and by someone’s choice and an abortionist’s hands, rips her apart. It may be done with a vacuum and curette. It may be done by the abortionist grabbing body parts, twisting them to break them off, and pulling the child out piece by piece, putting her back together to make sure he didn’t miss anything. It may be done through medication, killing her and inducing labor to deliver a dead child. It’s barbaric. It’s sickening. And it is justified in the most barbaric and sickening ways.

A miscarriage is a natural but tragic process. But that has little bearing on how the parents feel afterwards. They did nothing wrong. Sure, the end result of both abortion and miscarriages is the death of a child, but the processes that lead to that awful result are worlds apart.

They’re not the same. It’s insensitive, pitiful, and appalling to say they are.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Limited Atonement: The Crumbling of Calvinist Doctrine

I once had a Calvinist friend admit to me that the most difficult point of his beliefs to support is Limited Atonement. In my own study I can see why, with the mountain of scriptural evidence against it.

Calvinists might point to Jesus “laying down His life for the sheep,” as if Jesus said anything about salvation only extending to the sheep. Jesus dying for the church does not mean that He also didn’t die for the rest of the world. Anyone can become a part of the church. Anyone can become a part of the flock. But only those who choose this will be saved—by their own doing. We have to examine the totality of scripture on atonement, rather than searching for phrasing that might make our case plausible. Limited Atonement seems more like it has to be there for predestination, from a Reformed perspective, to make any sense, even though there does not seem to be sufficient proof.

Indeed, when the Limited Atonement block is removed, the entire tower crumbles. If Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, then He partially died in vain because He had already predestined certain people to not believe. If He did not die for the sins of the whole world, then there is a lot of scripture that must be explained, or explained away.

I understand that a four-point Calvinist rejects limited atonement. However, I still believe the concept weakens their foundation. If Jesus did die for the sins of the whole world, but only extended salvation to some, part of the sin He took on was pointless. The argument could be made that it was even from a free will perspective, because Jesus knew that not everyone would be saved. However, Christ’s work on the cross was the divine equivalent of a tennis serve—Jesus put the ball in our court, and we choose what to do with it. God made a way for every individual to know Him, and He did so by dying for the sins of the whole world. The cross makes it possible for all to freely choose. If God was doing the choosing ahead of time, it would not make sense to put Jesus through the additional agony of all the sins of people who God had no intention of extending an offer of grace to.

The concept of the “whole world” is wrapped up in the Greek word kosmon. Its use in the New Testament repeatedly points to the inclusion of everyone:
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. –John 16:33b 
God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? –Romans 3:6 
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: –Romans 5:12 
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. –Hebrews 11:7
Has Jesus only overcome part of the world? Will God only judge part of the world? Did sin pass upon only part of the world? Did God only judge part of the world in the flood?

So when we see the following passage, using the same Greek word, we should be confident that there are no caveats or exclusions:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. –John 3:14-17
Jesus came to save the entire world by dying for the entire world, not just the “elect.”

The symbolism of the serpent is also important. Jesus likens Himself to the bronze serpent in the wilderness:
And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. –Numbers 21:6-9
The point of the serpent was to save people from death. “Every one” who would otherwise die can look to it. “Any man.” Jesus’s death was symbolized by a deliverance available to everyone.

The idea of the death of Christ being for everyone is also outright stated:
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe. –I Timothy 4:9-10
Just as Jesus dying for the sheep doesn’t negate that He died for the whole world, Jesus being the Savior “specially of those that believe” does not negate that He is the “Savior of all men.”
For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. –Romans 11:30-32 
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world [kosmon] unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. –II Corinthians 5:19 
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. –I John 2:1-2
John is talking to Christians and says that Jesus isn't just the propitiation for us (Christians), but also for the whole world.

I can’t say where the belief in Limited Atonement originated; I haven’t studied to unraveling of Reformed theology. But I can be confident in saying it is not from a proper interpretation of scripture. Calvinism paints God with attributes contrary to His Word, and it faces its biggest hill in trying to prove that Jesus died for some, not all.

If we can’t prove Limited Atonement, the logical foundation of Calvinism crumbles. If Christ died for all, then He partially died in vain, as He took the punishment for the sins of billions of people who God had already set aside for destruction “before the foundation of the world.” If Jesus died for us all and opened the door to salvation for us all, then predestination, as Reformed theology believes it, is unbiblical.

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. –Revelation 22:17

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

What is Fruit?: The Multiplication of Reproduction

This is the final installment in the “What is Fruit?” series. We first looked at why the metaphor of fruit is used to represent our good works—works are not the root of our salvation, but the product of new life already in existence. We then looked at why works are still important, as they are the natural consequence of salvation and betray that we are Christ’s. Last time, we looked at the patience and work required to see fruit germinate. This time, we look at how plants reproduce.

“It’s not the seeds in the apple. It’s the apples in the seeds.”

This was widely considered one of the most memorable lines from my years going to Youth Congress, a summer youth retreat my home church used to go to at The Crown College of the Bible. Dr. Mitch Campbell, a brilliant orthopedic surgeon on staff at the University of Louisville’s medical school, was one of the preachers at Youth Congress for several years I went. He has some memorable sermons, some of which were pretty unconventional, but I think this one sticks out to many people.

Dr. Campbell was describing how our fruit, to us, may not seem much, even if we labor for it. Our fruit may only have a handful of seeds. But his quote sums up so well the principle of multiplication.

Seeds come from the fruit on a plant, and they are planted to produce more fruit. Those seeds become plants, which produce fruit with seeds, and those seeds are planted…Do you get the picture?

Each seed that comes from that fruit can become a plant of its own and produces fruit with seeds of their own. If an apple tree has five apples, and each apple has five seeds, there are 25 potential trees hanging on that tree, and that’s just the first round. Then there can be 25 more potential trees on each of those 25 trees.

Multiplication is God’s way of population. God’s instruction to His creation:
And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. –Genesis 1:22 
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. –Genesis 1:28
Probably the greatest photo ever taken at Youth Congress
God’s plan for populating the Earth was to multiply. It began with two humans who multiplied, and then their offspring multiplied, and so on. Now there are some 7 billion of us.

We see this repeatedly in Acts:
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied… –Acts 6:1 
Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. –Acts 9:31 
But the word of God grew and multiplied. –Acts 12:24 
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. –Acts 13:48-49 
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. –Acts 19:20
One specific biblical example we can look to for a line of conversions is the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. The eunuch became a convert under Philip’s ministry. Philip, it is assumed, was converted under the apostles’ ministry in Jerusalem. The apostles were apostles of Jesus. Another example is Timothy’s church. Although little detail is found about it, there were obviously converts from Timothy’s ministry, who was a convert of Paul’s ministry, who was an apostle of Jesus. I’d bet there were people in Timothy’s ministry who had their own converts.

I’m sure there are various reasons for the explosion of Christianity in the years following the resurrection. Persecution. Services where thousands were saved. The signs and wonders following the apostles. But we have to look at multiplication as being a big reason. All of Asia Minor did not hear the gospel directly from Paul’s mouth (Acts 19:10). But some people did, and they spread the gospel to people who spread the gospel.

We can all probably look at a line of people in our own lives that started with one person. Unfortunately, this isn’t widespread, but it is supposed to be. It is God’s desire and His plan:
(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) –II Corinthians 9:9-10
Reproduction cannot take place if we are not producing fruit. Christianity will not grow unless we obey God in reproducing other Christians.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive study of multiplication. Rather, it is a fitting end to the study of the metaphor of fruit in the Bible. Plants reproduce for the growth of the “species.” It was God’s design to use multiplication to populate the Earth. In the same way, He uses multiplication to populate the Kingdom of Heaven. It is our responsibility. And it is an encouragement. God takes our work of reproducing other Christians and turns it into so much more.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

What is Fruit?: The Patience and Time Required for Germination

This is the third of four parts in the “What is Fruit?” series. In the first post, I examined the original question. There is a reason that the fruit metaphor is used in the Bible. Fruit is the product of an already-existing life. Works are not the root of our salvation. They are produced out of the new life in Christ. In the second post, I remind us that, while works are not a part of salvation, they should be evident in the life of a Christian. They are the sign that betrays that we are children of God. A Christian life without fruit is either unhealthy or dead. In this third post…

It was last summer, one of the most up-and-down periods of my life. It had been a while since I had seen my friend Brooke, who was a key person in my support network. Our schedules weren’t working out, so we talked on the phone one evening. She began to talk about her role in her church with a group of girls, who were beginning to really open up to her after some months of gaining their trust.

“That’s the thing about fruit,” I told her. “It doesn’t develop immediately. It takes time for it to show up.”

I’ve covered why the fruit metaphor (fruit equaling works) is used in relation to salvation. Works are not what save us, or give us new life, but they come as a natural result of the new life we already have. I’ve also discussed why they betray that we are children of God, and that healthy Christians will have fruit as a result of salvation, even though they themselves do not save nor are joined with faith to save.

Here’s another thing about fruit: It doesn’t happen right away. There has to be a period of growth, and there will be seasons of hardship. And when fruit fully matures, new fruit has to grow (John 15:2).

We can see this in the lives of people in the Bible. Peter chose to follow Christ, but he regularly showed his spiritual immaturity:
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. –Matthew 17:1-6 
And [Jesus] began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. –Mark 8:31-33 
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? –Matthew 14:25-31 
These trees have produced fruit before and will again, but are facing a
barren season right now.
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit… –John 13:3-10a
And, of course:
Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. –Luke 24:54-62
Peter just didn’t always get it. But did being with Jesus have an effect on His growth? We see it in his confession that Jesus is the Christ. We see it in his willingness to get out of the boat. And after Peter has an encounter with the risen Christ, things really change. Mind you, this is not Peter’s conversion. Peter chose to follow Jesus some three-and-a-half years earlier. But this is a new experience, and it leaves an impression. We see Peter boldly stand up on Pentecost and preach about this risen Jesus:
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel… –Acts 2:14-16
In the next chapter, Peter heals a lame man, and when the people around him gawk and are astonished, he looks at them and starts preaching that the man was healed in Jesus’s name, the same Jesus that they crucified, and they need to repent and be converted. Then he gets dragged in front of the Council and does the same thing!
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. –Acts 4:10-12
The Council forbids Peter and the apostles to preach in Jesus’s name. But they do it anyway, and they get arrested:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. –Acts 5:27-32
But even then, we still see Peter make mistakes. When God told him to take the gospel to the Gentiles, he questioned God several times. At one point Paul has to correct him (Galatians 2). So Peter takes a while to mature, then still has shortcomings and dry seasons.

We also see a necessary time of growth in Paul’s life after salvation:
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. –Galatians 1:15-18
The widely-accepted theory about this passage is that, after “Saul’s” miraculous conversion, God brought him into the wilderness to instruct him. Charles Stanley has this to say:
After Paul’s conversion, he disappeared into the desert for three years, during which time the Holy Spirit instructed him in the ways of God. He emerged, ready to communicate divine truth. 
The Lord speaks to believers so that they will comprehend the truth, conform to the truth, and communicate the truth. These same steps form a roadmap to discipleship. What happened during Paul’s desert years was only the beginning of a life-long process—God renewed his mind and transformed him into the image of Christ. For the apostle, that change began with connecting his rich biblical knowledge to the revelation that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.
There is no perfect comparison because Paul was being endowed with special revelation which he then would communicate to the various churches he plants. Today we have the entire revelation of God through the scriptures, part of which is comprised of Paul’s writings. However, it is important to note that, before Paul ever sees fruit in the form of reproducing other Christians, there was a period of growth in which he sat at Jesus’s feet and learned from Him.

This isn’t an excuse for fruitlessness. This is a realistic perspective of our lives and others’ lives. We may wonder why we aren’t where Peter or Paul were at the end of their lives. But we have to remember that they didn’t start that way. There was a period of growth. We see Peter struggle for several years before Pentecost, and even afterwards there were times that he had to be corrected. The same will be true of us.

We also have to keep that perspective about others. We can’t look at a young Christian and expect the spiritual maturity of one who has been a Christian for years.
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. –I Peter 2:1-3
I remember where I was as an underclassman versus where I was as an upperclassman, and it helped me in my relationships with younger students in ministry. If they have older people to mentor them and are actively pursuing God, they will mature spiritually, just as anyone will in those circumstances.

Another thing related to the germination of fruit: It will take time for our fruit to develop. And it may not involve only us:
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. –I Corinthians 3:6
Alex (second from left), I, and a few friends in search of train cars that had
slid into a creek in Indiana. We found them months later on a second try.
Of course, the context of this verse is that we are not the ones that bring the fruit. God is. But, we can glean from this that it isn’t always just one person that brings someone to salvation or helps a Christian mature. I’d say it rarely is. I remember stories from Beach Reach in which a spring breaker would get saved later on in the week after several encounters with other teams. I can think of several people who played big roles in my friend Alex’s conversion when I was a sophomore, and many who played smaller roles.

And on top of that, this often takes time. My grandpa became a Christian after years of hearing the gospel. It was months of being around ministry and conversations before Alex was saved. That’s the reality of the incubation of fruit. We don’t harvest in June. The fruit matures until it is ready to be gathered. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen. Christians mature, and people we have spoken to and prayed for over months or years come to be children of God.

In what is, finally, the last post of this series, I will examine what comes next. I wasn’t planning a fourth post, but as I wrote this one I was excited by the significance of the seeds in fruit. It is critical in understanding evangelism and how we reproduce other Christians. Don’t think addition. Think multiplication.

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