Frequently you'll hear people talking about the authority of the Bible - but what do they mean? In the quotations below you'll find a number of good answers.
I don't normally watch the news... But I did happen to watch this interview with a Planned Parenthood Executive.
"Since the Bible teaches that life in the womb is human life, one cannot accept abortion without denying the authority and truth of Scripture in practice."
Of course, in my interpersonal relationships my political views do tend to leak out from time to time. When this happens it usually results in loud sighs, snores, and/or statements from bystanders such as (but not limited to): "You are a complete nut, Crabtree!"
"How easily our outspokenness on some temporal issue can stop the ears of our hearers when we begin speaking of eternal truths."
Here's a solid truth for all Christians to consider; How easily our outspokenness on some temporal issue can stop the ears of our hearers when we begin speaking of eternal truths.
Having said all of that it is at this point that some of my readers might begin wondering aloud if I have suddenly developed a brain fever or something.
That is to say, if one states that it is wise to avoid politics in one's ministry, and if one acknowledges that said discussions of politics might have the unintended consequence of hindering one's effectiveness in communing the gospel.... why, outside of some sort of head trauma, would one devote the rest of today's blog-post to what is perhaps the most polarizing political issue of the last 45 years - ABORTION?
The answer is because I do not believe abortion to be merely a political issue.
Yes, I understand that ultimately the question of abortion must enter the realm of politics but it should not, in my opinion, begin there. Answering the abortion question must start somewhere far away. It must start with theology - i.e. our understanding of who God is and what God requires of man. Sadly though even Christians don't often start with theology. Like the rest of our culture, Christians seem to find it far easier to start with the false and unhelpful rightwing vs. leftwing linear model of politics. That is to say, if we lean "right" we unthinkingly adopt the so-called right-wing view of abortion. And if we lean left... you get the idea.
But is this satisfying?
I would contend that this isn't satisfying at all... and we all know it... Let's think this through for a moment...
But then there is the so-called political "left," and others of us have adopted their answer to the abortion question. But frankly, their answer is as unsatisfying as the right's answer. In fact it's bitterly ironic...
The left claims abortion is a matter of "human rights" and there has been a great amount of emphasis placed on this thanks to the bumpersticker-ready slogan "a woman's right to choose."
But is abortion really a matter of human rights? Or is abortion ultimately a practice that strips human beings - namely, infants in the womb - of the very source from which human rights derive... you know, that supposedly "unalienable," and God-given "right to life" enshrined in our nation's founding documents.
And dare I add - shouldn't someone on the left take note of the fact that aborted babies are disproportionately minority and female? What about the human rights of these "oppressed" people groups ? What about the systemic injustices done to them? Aren't causes like this the bread and butter of the left?
Shouldn't some leftist somewhere begin "raising awareness?" Shouldn't some leftist somewhere insist that we begin a "national dialogue?"
One might think so... and yet to my knowledge there has never been a single leftist who has ever printed a bumper sticker, chanted a slogan, marched in the streets, organized a sit-in, petitioned their congressman, boycotted a Chick-fil-a, burned down their campus library, sued the Boy Scouts, bought off the media, or made an appeal before the US Supreme Court regarding the human rights violations, injustices, and institutional discrimination perpetrated against the most dependent minority-group of all - unborn children.
Surely, whether one is of the political right or left (or somewhere in between) neither of their positions on the abortion question are satisfying. And surely, the more we look to the equivocation, prevarication, and postulation of the so-called political "wings" and their political spokespeople to answer the abortion question for us the more anyone with one iota of critical thinking skills will conclude that the answer is not to be found in the political arena (though as stated earlier, politicians must eventually make a determination on the issue.)
The point I am trying to make is this: I contend that we will only begin to answer the abortion question when we, as individuals, look at the matter from a theological standpoint. And it's no good dismissively saying, " well, maybe so... but I'm no theologian."
Of course you are!
You have certain thoughts about God don't you? Did you realize that that is all that the word "theology" means - a system of thought about God. Therefore even atheists (whether they like to admit it or not) have a highly developed theological framework... a false and fairly silly theological framework in my opinion, but it's deeply theological nonetheless... Out of this framework we are enabled to develop our own answers to questions like the abortion question.
We must resist the laziness that tempts us to embrace positions on abortion (and other important questions) that are merely the sloppily constructed creation of some political "wing." We must think theologically and recognize the dangerous siren calls of media talking-heads who promise to do all of the thinking for us. We must get down to the rough and challenging work of answering tough questions by starting with our understanding of God, His holiness, His law, and the value and dignity of every human being who He has made in His image.
For those of you who have developed your position on the abortion question in the aforementioned manner I offer you a letter (right) that I received a few weeks back from prolifealliance.org
Though personally I do not think that the "Pain Capable Abortion Ban" goes far enough I have signed the petition in hopes that it will one day lead to the passage of H.R. 816, Life at Conception Act which will extend equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to unborn/preborn children and thus effectively overturn Roe v. Wade.
In this video Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary briefly touches on the subject. While not specifically focusing on the so-called evangelical voting block, Trueman does offer some helpful insights on the meaning and usefulness of the evangelical label.
In His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus was asked why He ministered to sinners. By way of reply He reminded His questioners it is the sick who need a physician (Matthew 9:11-13).
Something that we need to be very clear about in our day is that homosexuality is a sickness. Whether is is a psychological one (as all medical professionals confidently affirmed until fairly recent decades) I do not know. What I do know is that homosexuality is symptomatic of spiritual sickness. Even the most rudimentary understanding of the Bible's position on human sexuality is enough to make this plain. Homosexuality is abhorrent to God and a clear violation of the boundaries with which He encircled human sexuality. But it is these selfsame difficult realities that brings us back to a very wonderful principle - Jesus, the great physician, is willing and able to cure those who are sick. His cure is the gospel of God's grace.
Though homosexuality is one of many sinful expressions of the God-given gift of human-sexuality it is a much confused and sensationalized issue in our day. Individual Christians, local churches, and entire denominations are under extreme pressure to either remain silent on the biblical view of human sexuality and Christ's power to transform sinners or to openly affirm sexual perversions in the name of tolerance and love. But since matters of Christian doctrine are not determined by special interest groups, supreme court rulings, or media driven cultural crusaders we Christians must go to the fount from which all doctrine springs - we must go to God's authoritative Word, the Bible. In order to minister to people properly we must start with the Bible. Without it we cannot hope to understand the nature of man, the disease of sin, and, the practice of homosexuality - let alone the life-transforming power of God in Christ through the gospel.
In my view the following article by John Freeman accomplishes these things nicely. My prayer is that it will prove beneficial to you as you seek to be salt and light in an increasingly hostile culture.
On this side of the fall, sex and sexuality are distorted to lesser or greater degrees. However, today there is controversy about homosexuality raging in evangelical circles and, increasingly, in Reformed churches as well. Not only is homosexuality often presented as good but it is also presented as something to be pursued with God’s blessing. It is alarming that the acceptance of homosexual behavior among professing evangelicals is increasing. We hear from some people that the kind of homosexual relationships we see today (loving, monogamous ones) aren’t addressed in Scripture. Although this trend seems likely to continue, these revisionist views must be rejected by followers of Jesus Christ.
God’s Word is firm in its negative view of homosexuality and same-sex sexual desire. The Bible is the infallible standard by which we must view homosexuality and understand the gospel remedy for it. Unfortunately, the reliability of the Bible in this area has been questioned by many today who claim the Christian faith. Christians who view Scripture as authoritative and inspired must not accept this watered-down view of God’s Word. The Bible reveals God’s assessment regarding the problems of the human heart, homosexuality being one of many.
How are Christians to think about homosexuality? We need to understand it in three ways. First, homosexuality in Scripture is always spoken of in terms of an action—something done physically with another person, or an internal, active thought pattern of the mind and heart. The Greek word most often used to describe homosexuality in the New Testament is arsenokoitēs, which refers to a male lying with another male. Therefore, whenever it is mentioned, it’s always defined in terms of an activity, a behavior, or a person who engages in that behavior of heart and body.
Second, homosexuality is labeled as sin in every place it is mentioned. It’s prohibited and is expressly seen as contrary to God’s will. Scripture states this clearly in Genesis 19:4–9; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Timothy 1:9–10; and Jude 7. Romans 1:24–27 also describes the activity of heart-centered passion and lust, as well as the behavior. It references both men and women. The behavior is listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, where we also learn that it was the history of some Christians in the early church. Among those who had experienced salvation were former practitioners of homosexuality.
Therefore, not only is homosexual behavior of body and heart defined as sin, but it is also portrayed as a consequence and effect of the fall. Referring to the reality of sex gone awry, Leviticus 18:6–19 lists more than a dozen forms of sexual sin, including homosexuality and sex with animals. Again, the gravity of sexual sin, particularly homosexuality, is stated strongly in Romans 1:24–26 using vivid and stunning phrases such as “the lust of their hearts to impurity,” “dishonorable passions,” and having a “debased mind.” That is in addition to the verses in Jude that speak of “perversion of the grace of God into sensuality” and of people who “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire.” This latter designation is specifically tied to what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah.
But did God really have to convey that misusing sex in the aforementioned ways (and, by inference, the desires leading to that misuse) is prohibited and seen as sin? Of course. Our desires, especially our sexual desires, are never neutral. To see same-sex desire as neutral, especially when that desire either objectifies the other person sexually or sees the person merely as an object of sexual passion, is to misunderstand the depth and intricacy of sin. In Scripture, the heart is often seen as the seat of our desires. In Mark 7:21, Jesus describes the heart as the seat of all sexual immorality and sensuality. These propensities are portrayed as evil things that come from within. He is talking about desire, whether the object of that desire is someone of the opposite sex or the same sex. James 1:14–15 tells us we are lured and enticed by our desires and that desire gives birth to sin. Desire is not an impartial part of our being, but rather a very active part of it.
Admittedly, these views of Scripture are widely rejected. There is an overarching factor in the attempt to legitimize homosexuality biblically. Simply put, in today’s culture, our sociology is increasingly interpreting, defining, and determining our theology. What do I mean by that? There was a time when believers routinely looked to the Bible both to know how to think about issues of life and to find solutions to the dilemmas they faced, including issues surrounding sex and sexuality. No more. Today, the impact and influence of one’s social network and experience with friends and family have displaced what the Bible might say on this topic. Another term to understand this transfer of authority and credibility away from God’s Word to personal experience is cultural accommodation. Today, it seems that many people believe that the Scriptures must bow to our experiences or those of others.
We must also note that homosexuality is never described in Scripture as a condition or state of being. Contrary to the modern idea of an innate homosexual “orientation”—a term only frequently used in the last twenty-five years or so—this concept is not found in Scripture. It’s assumed in the Bible that we can become inclined or “oriented” to anything to which we continually give our minds and hearts. Do something in thought or action enough times and over a long enough period, and it will become ingrained in us.
However, we have to be careful of simplistic thinking here, especially when we think of our responsibility—something many don’t believe they have when it comes to their same-sex desires or behavior. We are the product of complex interactions of many factors over many years. Why are some prone to any number of psychosocial persuasions, including anger, depression, or chemical dependency? Here is the answer: we do not always choose our struggles or temptations, although we bear responsibility for what we do with them. They develop in us through a complicated interaction of temperament, internal and external influences, and our own hungry, broken, and sinful selves.
We easily and by nature cooperate with these influences so that habits of heart and behavior become strong and ruling. In one sense, we are the sum of thousands of small decisions we have made. We have cooperated with our cultivated desires. So, despite the external factors that may have been in play in the development of those temptations we find particularly enticing, we are still responsible for leading godly lives, including in the area of sexuality.
Finally, we need to understand that God offers forgiveness, a clean record, and restoration through Jesus Christ for all repentant sinners, including those who have a history of homosexual behavior and other sins. He not only forgives us as we are prone to misuse His gift of sex and sexuality, but His grace actually “trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12). This does not necessarily mean that we can pretend as if we hadn’t misused sex as part of our history or that illicit sexual desires will not continue to trouble us or be a source of temptation, but it does mean that the grace of God gives us power for transformed living as followers of Jesus Christ. He enables us to resist temptation and live unto His glory.
Christ mediates this grace and empowers believers, but the church, the body of Christ, also plays a crucial role. I overheard a pastor once say, “Repentance is killing that which is killing me without killing myself. ” I don’t know anyone who can do that all by himself. Learning to walk in obedience and put to death our sin and our sinful nature is never something to be attempted alone or in isolation. Biblical change is a community activity. The call of the church is to offer support and encouragement to those who experience same-sex attractions and other sexual temptations. Walking with those who are tempted in this way means we help bear the burdens of their struggles and temptations, offering friendship and fellowship, and helping them to believe for the first time or to re-believe the gospel every day. That’s what Christ does for us and what we need to do for others in dealing with sexual sin. In so doing, we will also be reminded that we, too, are forgiven for our transgressions.
This article originally appeared in Tabletalk magazine and is also available online at www.ligonier.org/tabletalk
"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) even one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."
- Thomas Jefferson, American Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. President, and sadly no fan of Biblical Christianity.
So asks Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in the wake of the shooting deaths of two journalists. The killings, which are being dubbed "the first social media murders," (though some might argue that the recent Planned Parenthood video were actually the first) do raise a very interesting ethical question for Christians - to watch or not to watch, that is the question. Certainly the temptation to watch is very real. Sure on the one hand we believe it's right to say:
"I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me." - Psalm 101:3
But on the other hand everyone is talking about these murders and the footage is available on social media. In addition to this it doesn't do Christians any good to hide from the harsh realities of life in a sin-cursed world. In fact, having an awareness of such things gives us a wonderful opportunity to dialogue with our unbelieving co-workers and friends about the true meaning of life and the Lord's defeat of death through His resurrection.... So what is a Christian to conclude?
Here's what Moore concludes:
"This killer’s video... is celebrating darkness. He put forward a kind of pornography of violence, and from that we must turn away." - Russell Moore
"Same-sex marriage is in the news a lot lately. Where do you stand on this issue?"
"I am very much against the issue of same-sex marriage. Here are two basic reasons why I am against it:
1) We didn't create it, we can't redefine it.
2) God created it, God sets the rules for it.
In the meantime, if you are a Christian troubled by todays ruling and concerned about its implications for religious liberty and free-speech, please take comfort in the following facts:
1) Homosexuals are not our enemies - they are people who are lost and need the transformative gospel of Jesus Christ.
2) Regardless of the dictates of the governments of man, Christ is still on the throne and the good news is still true.
3) Agreeing with God's is always the right thing to do - especially when it is difficult to do so.
4) Always remember that Jesus wins (see Psalm 2). At the end of the game all of the pieces will put back in the box and only Christ and His people will stand victorious.
allow me to explain the answers I gave above:
1) We didn't create it, we can't redefine it.
Why is this?
This is because real marriage (unlike same-sex marriage) is most assuredly NOT a manmade institution or a societal construct, it is an institution very obviously imposed upon mankind from an outside source. Proof of this is that marriage is hemmed in with very obvious biological, anatomical, and psychological (not to mention theological) parameters.
A pastor would argue that these marital-parameters were given by God. An evolutionary biologist might argue that these parameters were given by nature. Either way though we are both agreed that the parameters are there. They exist. They are facts. They are beyond our control. They are unaffected by our feelings, preferences, desires, wishes, wants, and yearnings. They are unalterably bound-up in the concept of marriage. Since same-sex marriage has no such parameter and is little more than a societal construct it does not qualify as “marriage” in any way shape or form.
Politicians might pass legislation that will change how our society is permitted to use the word “marriage.” Justices might pronounce judgments changing the legal definition of the word “marriage.” But these are merely linguistic games that cannot change the institution of marriage any more than they can change the biological, anatomical, psychological and theological parameters that surround it.
2) God created it, God sets the rules for it.
Here are some scripture references that might help you understand why I, along with any Christian who takes the Bible seriously, cannot affirm the practice of homosexuality let alone support the concept of same-sex “marriage”
1.) Marriage has been given by God as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride the church (Ephesians 5:32). This is yet one more proof that God has set the institution up in a very particular way and for a very particular purpose and therefore we have no real authority to redefine or recreate it.
2.) Homosexual behavior is strictly prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments (Lev. 18:22-24, Lev. 20:13, I Cor. 6:9-20, I Tim 1:10) as being contrary to God’s design in creation.
3.) Homosexuality along with all other forms of sexual immorality is always represented as intrinsically sinful behavior that provokes the wrath of God (Rom.1:26-28) and dehumanizes its participants.
4.) Scripture clearly shows that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. (Gen.2:22-24, Matt. 19:5-6).
5.) Homosexuals (like all of the rest of us) though sinners are NOT beyond the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (I Cor 6:9-11 – please note the implications of the phrase “such were some of you” in v.11). Christians who, in the name of love or tolerance, support same-sex marriage are simply affirming homosexuals in their sin. Furthermore, they have embraced a very troubling philosophy – namely, that whoever the gospel is for, it certainly isn’t for the sexually immoral.
An Email Sent to a Ministerial Colleague
a little background:
Two weeks ago while driving through a familiar part of my hometown I sat at an intersection. The evening sky was pink, the traffic light was red, the radio was playing a song by Uncle Tupelo, and I was in very fine spirits. But as they say, even the silverest of clouds have a dark lining (or something like that.)
Glancing to my left my eyes suddenly beheld a sight that made my heart sink. There, mounted high atop the bell tower of a stately old church building was a rainbow flag with the words "God is still speaking," boldly emblazoned upon it (see picture, right). I immediately wondered aloud, 'what kind of pastor would use his/her church building for the promotion of human sexuality?
Am I alone in thinking this a little odd?
What follows is a verbatim copy of the email I sent. Names, specific locations, web-addresses and the like have all been removed. My intention was/is not to insult my activist-minded colleague in ministry, nor to shame the flock that has very tragically placed themselves under her care. My intention is simply to show that using one's church building for the promotion of sociopolitical causes (especially very self-serving and unbiblical ones) is not merely an exploitative breech of ministerial ethics it is also a terribly sad substitute for genuine pastoral ministry.
I have not received a response to my email and I do not expect I will. If I do however I'll post it here on my blog.
a copy of my email:
Dear Pastor _____________,
After driving down ______________ Street just a couple of days ago I noticed your very beautiful church building and thought I would look you up online and drop you a quick note as a fellow Christian and colleague.
To my delight I found ___________ Church quite easily online and was delighted to read your "Faith Page" which assured me that you are open to “diverse" viewpoints and are committed to “different ways of thinking.” Moreover, I discovered that your Faith Page actually encourages readers to send their quotes for inclusion on your website. (i.e., “Email us and have (your quote) included!” see reference, www.________________.org)
May I say, that this is a wonderful way to highlight the fact that God is still speaking (as you claim)! In addition to this, it is a very bold yet practical way for you as a pastor to demonstrate publicly that you do, in fact, celebrate the kind of openness and diversity that your website makes so much of. I sincerely wish that more ministers of your kind would be as daring as you are in this regard.
Having said all of that, here is the quote I would like to submit. I trust that it will be thought provoking and helpful:
“I am a Pastor who feels that using one’s church building as a billboard for the promotion of human sexuality is a pathetic substitute for genuine gospel ministry.”
Please let me know when my quote appears on your site! I’d like to put a link to it on my blog.
-Rev. R Crabtree
All Souls Church
Green Camp, Ohio
Today at 3:10 AM the Finest Man I Ever Knew Died in His Sleep
William Sylvester Crabtree, born October 30, 1930, died December 24, 2014
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that
you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Rev. R Crabtree
"...a son, a husband, a father of 6, a friend, a Presbyterian
(not the liberal kind), an eccentric, and a minister of the gospel... I am also the Pastor of All Souls Church and a Professor of Religious Studies at OCBC."
All Souls Church
Attributes Of God
Irenaeus Of Lyons
Journey Of Faith
Means Of Grace
Order Of Salvation
Westminster Confession Of Faith